After a search that started with 50 candidates, spanned almost three years and was disrupted by a pandemic, the Juneau Symphony has named Christopher Koch as its new music director.
Koch will take the baton and conduct his first concert in the director’s role at the end of January.
“We are thrilled to be at this point. Great things are happening,” said Charlotte Truitt, executive director for the symphony, in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “It feels really, really good. Chris is very personable and warm and will enrich the community.”
Truitt said that when Koch auditioned in Juneau, he connected with the community and that the connection he formed was a driving force in his selection.
“He performed a wonderful concert that was beautiful, he spoke at the Rotary lunch, he did a fundraiser and really took in the local arts offerings,” she said. “He’s a runner and a hiker who is originally from the Pacific Northwest and he seemed to have an authentic love for the community, the specialness of the arts here and our unique location.”
It appears the feeling is mutual.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be the symphony’s next music director. From the moment I arrived in Juneau, I knew I’d landed in a special place and genuinely loved my time with the orchestra and community. I can’t wait to begin this new journey together,” Koch said in a news release issued by the symphony.
According to Truitt, Koch will continue to live in Oregon and travel to Juneau, frequently spending several weeks working with the orchestra to prepare for concerts. When he’s not in town working with the orchestra, he will develop future concert programs.
Truitt said this is a popular arrangement for conductors, who often support the symphony in more than one city.
According to the symphony’s website, Koch is currently the music and executive director of Ozarks Lyric Opera and is active nationally as an early music specialist (recorder) in recital, concerto, and conference performances.
He has appeared as a guest conductor with orchestras across the United States, Australia, and Canada. Koch also spent two decades in higher education, most recently at Drury University.
He received his Bachelor of Music degrees in flute performance and music education from the Eastman School of Music, Master of Music degrees in flute and orchestral conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, and the Doctor of Musical Arts in conducting from the University of Washington.
“We are so pleased with the collaborative process and believe that Dr. Koch will provide great leadership to the organization on the podium and in the community,” said Beth Pendleton, who was a co-chair of the search committee.
Upcoming holiday concerts
The symphony’s 59th season, fittingly called “Together Again” — a nod to the six virtual concerts the group performed as COVID-19 restrictions shuttered concerts and other live entertainment, is now underway.
The symphony’s first in-person concert in almost two years took place at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in the Mendenhall Valley to a sold-out crowd in October.
Tickets are on sale for the holiday cheer concerts scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12 at Thunder Mountain High School.
Visit Juneausymphony.org to learn more and purchase tickets. All audience members will be required to wear masks and present proof of vaccination to enter the venue.
“The concert will be full of fantastic music,” Truitt said.