ST. PETERSBURG – With the 2016/17 season ready to begin this week, Music Director Michael Francis has signed a contract extension to lead The Florida Orchestra through at least the 2020/21 season.
“This is great news for The Florida Orchestra and Tampa Bay,” said Thomas H. Farquhar, Board Chairman. “When you look at what a difference Michael Francis has made in just one year, it’s thrilling to think about what this orchestra can accomplish in the coming years with his leadership, vision and boundless energy. And not just in the concert hall, but in the community.”
Francis took over as music director in the 2015/16 season, the beginning of a three-year contract; this extension brings his commitment to at least six years. In his short tenure, he has re-energized the orchestra and been the driving force behind expanding TFO’s mostly free community programs to bring live music to all of Tampa Bay, including last week’s successful TFO on the Go, with more than 15 free concerts in four days.
Paid attendance, which has increased more than 30 percent since the orchestra lowered tickets prices and diversified programs in 2011, continued to grow in Francis’ inaugural season. When combined with increased community concerts, more people than ever are seeing The Florida Orchestra perform.
“I feel like we’ve just got started here,” said Maestro Francis, only the fourth music director in TFO’s history. “I’m excited about the direction the orchestra is headed and eager for us to flourish alongside the impressive growth of Tampa Bay. I want to be a part of building something truly special in this community.”
Francis has quickly established an international reputation in Asia, North American and Europe with his artistic expertise and engaging charisma on the podium. He is also music director of the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego, where he has launched an ambitious multi-year exploration of Mozart’s life. He was recently chief conductor and artistic advisor of the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra from 2012 to 2016. He has a home in the Tampa Bay area with his wife, Cindy, who grew up in Lutz, and his young daughter, Annabella.
Francis will conduct Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and its “Ode to Joy,” featuring the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, on opening weekend of the Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
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Florida Orchestra musician news
The orchestra welcomes new violinist Yuan-Yuan Wang, who has performed with the Indianapolis, North Carolina and Terre Haute symphony orchestras, as well as the Evansville Philharmonic and Columbus Philharmonic. She has doctoral and master’s degrees in music from Indiana University, and a bachelor’s degree from the Peabody Conservatory of The John Hopkins University. A native of China, she attended Wuhan Conservatory of Music and Central Conservatory of Music there.
Also in the violin section will be Vivek Jayaraman, filling a one-year position. Jayaraman was a member of the New World Symphony from 2011 to 2015. The past year he has been in Cleveland where he recently completed an artist diploma at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He also serves as concertmaster of the Canton Symphony. Jayaraman will be joining the orchestra starting the second week of the season.
Robert Rearden, TFO principal horn since 2010, has departed the orchestra for a position in the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Filling his role will be David Smith as acting principal horn on a one-year contract, with auditions planned for the spring. Smith is an active freelancer in the Baltimore/D.C., playing regularly with the Baltimore and Richmond symphonies as well as serving as associate principal with the Annapolis Symphony.
TFO’s Casey Jones has been appointed acting principal trombone, moving into the role vacated by Dwight Decker, who has stepped into the assistant principal position. Decker, one of the longest-serving musicians in the orchestra, joined TFO in 1973.
Jones, who joined the orchestra in 2015, has been awarded tenure, along with Principal Oboe John Upton, who also came to the orchestra in 2015.
And as he enters his 44th season with The Florida Orchestra, Principal Clarinet Brian Moorhead has announced he will retire at the end of the 2016/17 season. Another one of the longest serving musicians in the orchestra, Moorhead has collaborated in various solo, chamber, and orchestral works in Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New York, with international invitations to Taipei, Taiwan, Le Havre, France, and Havana, Cuba, with the TFO principal wind quintet. He is also associate professor of clarinet at USF, Tampa, where he has been a part of the music faculty for 30 years.
This season The Florida Orchestra will also fill positions for principal viola and bass clarinet.