Photo courtesy of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra
The Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO) has hired a new principal conductor/music director to replace Mei-Ann Chen when she descends from the rostrum at the end of the 2015-16 concert season. Chen, who has led the orchestra through an intense period of artistic achievement amid economic disaster will be succeeded by Robert Moody, who has signed a two-year contract.
Moody has a 9-year history guest-conducting for the MSO and will officially take the helm in Memphis at the beginning of the Orchestra’s 2016-17 season. He’s served as the music director of the Winston-Salem Symphony since 2005 and as artistic director of Arizona’s Musicfest since 2007.
When Moody announced he’d be stepping down from his third gig as music director of Maine’s Portland Symphony Orchestra (PSO), it sounded like he’d be taking life a little bit easier and scaling back his professional responsibilities. “I am not thinking about retirement, but I am thinking about a life-simplification plan,” he told the Portland Press Herald. “I would like to explore other avenues for making music that are difficult to explore when I have three music director jobs to juggle.” Apparently those avenues include a two-year swing through Memphis, and some more juggling.
Moody, who is often described as having “star power,” will continue to lead the PSO until his contract ends in 2018. He is known for his charismatic performances, and for intimate audience chats. His internet series for Winston-Salem is called The Bobcast.
The new director/conductor arrives at a pivotal time. The MSO has been in austerity mode and fighting its way back to sustainability since depleting its modest endowment in 2014. Musicians have been “extraordinarily impacted” by pay cuts but the Orchestra’s CEO Roland Valliere believes he has good reasons to be optimistic.
“A year ago, the orchestra was faced with some significant challenges, but we have made remarkable progress,” he said in May, just before the MSO’s final Sunset Symphony performance. “But the community has really responded,” Valliere said. “We’re not out of the woods, but we’re on the path out of the woods.”
In her announcement of the new hire, MSO board president Gayle Rose said Moody’s reputation and history with Memphis made him an ideal candidate for the job, saving the struggling company from an expensive two-year search. She said Moody is “deeply committed to extending the MSO’s bond with the community.” He will be officially introduced as the new conductor at an outdoor concert during the Bass Pro World Hunting and Waterfowl Expo at the Pyramid on Oct 23rd.
Robert Moody conducts Saint Saens Morceau de Concert for Harp and Orchestra with the National Repertory Orchestra.