Pacific Symphony's Maxim Eshkenazy Passes Baton to New Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutierrez
It is sure to be a bittersweet moment when Maxim Eshkenazy-Pacific Symphony's much-loved assistant conductor for the last four seasons-steps down at the end of 2012-13, passing the baton to new Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez. But luckily, it's going to be a long goodbye for the very popular Eshkenazy, who continues with the Symphony, sharing duties with Gutiérrez throughout the coming season.
In his new role as assistant conductor, Gutiérrez will begin assuming some of Eshkenazy's duties over the next few months, and will eventually serve as music director of the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra; lead Family and Youth Concerts; and assist Music Director Carl St.Clair, as needed.
This December, during the Family Musical Mornings' series concert, "Nutcracker for Kids," conducted by Eshkenazy, audiences will be introduced to Gutiérrez, as the baton is ceremonially passed. Gutiérrez makes his official debut leading "The Magic Flute" on Jan. 12, 2013, while Eshkenazy continues his behind-the-scenes duties through May 2013.
"I feel really excited and happy to begin my duties as assistant conductor of Pacific Symphony, not only because the orchestra is recognized as being at an outstanding artistic level, but for its warm family environment among the musicians, conductors and all the administrative departments," says Maestro Gutiérrez. "It is the perfect place to really develop a career as a conductor. There are good opportunities to conduct this great orchestra, to artistically lead some specific projects, especially in the area of education and young-audience engagement, all in outstanding venues and with high-level artists."
Gutiérrez has been associate conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica since 1998, touring with the orchestra around all seven provinces of the nation, as well as conducting some subscription concerts. He is the creator and conductor of several successful educational and family programs: "Discovering Beethoven," "The Family Instruments of the Orchestra," "From the Caves to the Orchestra" and "The Concerto," among others. He has guest conducted the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra in Michigan, the Honduras Philharmonic, the Tatui Summer Festival Wind Orchestra, MIMU Festival Chamber Ensemble in Brazil and Costa Rica's National Symphonic Choir. Gutiérrez has also served as assistant conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, music director of the University of Texas University Orchestra, music director and conductor for the 2011 University of Texas Opera Center production of Mozart's "Così fan tutte" and prepared the national and international casts of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" for the Costa Rican National Lyric Opera in 2007. As music director and conductor of the University of Costa Rica Symphony Orchestra and the National Institute of Music Wind Orchestra, Gutiérrez led a program for new music in which he premiered winning compositions of the National Award of Composition given by the minister of culture. He is the founder and director of the internationally known chamber ensemble "Trombones de Costa Rica," which tours the U.S., Caribbean, Central and South America and Europe, and was awarded Costa Rica's National Prize of Music in 1999 and the Special Prize of the City of Passau, Germany, in 1997.
"I have not yet had the opportunity to meet Alejandro, but having just come from conducting in Costa Rica-everyone spoke very highly of him," says Maestro Eshkenazy. "They had nothing but nice things to say about Alejandro, and I'm sure I'll feel the same."
A rising star among today's generation of young conductors, Bulgarian native Eshkenazy has been called "charismatic and exciting," by the Los Angeles Times. In 2011, Eshkenazy led Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra's first highly successful European tour through Bulgaria, where they performed concerts in the cities of Varna, Plovdiv and Sofia to strong acclaim. With the Bakersfield Youth Symphony Orchestra, Eshkenazy completed a successful tour to South Korea, which was also received with great enthusiasm by audience and media alike. In addition to leading Pacific Symphony's Family and Youth Orchestra concerts, Eshkenazy conducted "Tchaikovsky Spectacular" during the Symphony's Summer Festival 2011-12 and "Cirque de la Symphonie" in 2010-11, as well as in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall during this past winter season. He made his summer debut in 2009 with the Symphony in collaboration with the Orange County affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which saw record-breaking attendance. The 2010-11 season also marked the inception of Fortissimo Fest, where Eshkenazy serves as music director. The newly-founded festival, underwritten by the America for Bulgaria Foundation, took place in his hometown of Sofia, and includes most of the major Bulgarian orchestras as well as orchestras and soloists from the United States. The Fortissimo Fest is a cultural-bridge builder and Eshkenazy is pleased to be an ambassador for the arts and integral link between the two nations. He is currently concluding the Fest this month, before returning to the states.
"I am feeling very upbeat," says Eshkenazy from Bulgaria, reflecting on his fifth and final season. "I have always believed that at every crossroad, there are new opportunities. In this case, I am able to look to my future and choose a new path. It's a great time for me. "My time at Pacific Symphony has been fantastic," continues Eshkenazy. "I've learned an incredible amount from Carl (St.Clair) and John (Forsyte, the Symphony's president) and the staff. I've learned how to integrate myself into an American orchestra structure, and I've grown tremendously as a conductor. Anytime you have the chance to work with a great orchestra, it forces you to be a better conductor. I hope to one day be the music director of a major orchestra, one that will be leading the way for classical orchestral music."