SPCO and U to share conductorby Karl Gehrke, Minnesota Public Radio
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the University of Minnesota School of Music have hired a conductor to fill new positions at both institutions. Richmond Symphony Music Director Mark Russell Smith begins his new jobs in the fall.
St. Paul, Minn. — Smith will play the key role in a partnership the university and the orchestra announced two years ago. His dual title is artistic director of orchestral studies at the University of Minnesota and director of new music projects at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
He'll teach and lead the symphony orchestra at the U of M and conduct the SPCO six weeks each season in concerts focusing on new music.
In a statement, University of Minnesota School of Music Director Noel Zahler described it as "an unprecedented appointment between a world-class orchestra and a university school of music."
Smith says serving as the music director at the Richmond Symphony has been a fantastic job, but he's interested in the teaching and explorations of new music that his new positions offer.
"As the music director of a professional, regional orchestra, with the week-in, week-out grind, you hardly get the opportunity to do those things," he says. "It's an exciting concept and an exciting possibility."
The partnership between an educational institution and a professional orchestra is unusual. Smith describes it as "ground-breaking."
"Things are changing and we in the classical music business need to examine how we fit into today's culture and how we can really make a difference," he says. "New combinations like this and not doing things the same way are very important."
Smith has a home in Minneapolis. His wife, Ellen Dinwiddle Smith, is a horn player with the Minnesota Orchestra. He'll continue as music director of the Richmond Symphony through 2009.