Finalist No. 3 to conduct Jan. 28 TSO concert
DAVID STONE | OUR TOWN TEMPLE
Beau Benson would like to add one more job to his impressive list of credentials.
He serves as orchestra director for Midway school district in Woodway, conductor of the Waco Symphony Youth Orchestra, and artistic director of the Oregon East Symphony Orchestra in Pendleton, Oregon.
Benson also is one of three finalists to replace Thomas Fairlie as the artistic director of the Temple Symphony Orchestra.
After Fairlie, founder and conductor of the TSO retired in May, a search committee was formed to find a new conductor.
“We had more than 100 people respond, including some international applicants and some from around the US,” said search committee chair and TSO board member Jonathan Gary.
After an extensive interviewing process, the field was narrowed to four finalists: David Itkin, Beau Benson, Ben Loeb and Steven Ward. Itkin and Loeb have already taken their shots at guest conducting TSO, and Benson and Ward remain.
Benson, who resides in Woodway, has been conductor of Midway High School and Midway ISD orchestras since 2010.
“I grew up in Richardson, and went to SMU to study musical education and guitar performance,” he said. “After I got my bachelor’s degree, I started teaching Latin in Garland.”
“I decided I wanted to be in music, so I returned to SMU for graduate work in orchestral conducting. I conducted the Texas A&M orchestra for a year, then headed to Michigan State to work on a doctorate degree.”
After receiving his degree, Benson returned to the Dallas area and was directing an upstart opera company when he was offered the Midway job. But that wasn’t the only new job he accepted.
“When I was in Lansing, Michigan, working on my doctorate, I had applied for a conductor’s position in Oregon,” he said. “They were in a three-year process of selecting a new conductor. After I was back in Texas and working at Midway, I was offered the Oregon East job.”
“That was about nine years ago,” he said. “I go to Pendleton several times a year and direct performances. We have an arrangement where I don’t need to be there all the time.”
In addition to his conducting at Midway and in Oregon, Benson also has served as conductor of the Waco Symphony Youth Orchestra for about 10 years.
“The WSYO has a healthy Midway contingent, but we have musicians from around the region and some that are homeschooled.”
Benson said the experience gained with the Oregon orchestra has prepared him for a possible position in Temple.
“The Oregon East and Temple orchestras are similar,” he said. “Both are regional and use talent from the area. In Oregon, we share musicians with other orchestras in that state, plus Washington and Idaho. ”
Benson said he is excited about the possibility of taking over a program close to home.
“Being boots-on-the-ground here in Central Texas would be a huge plus,” he said. “I would be part of the community, and I’d be available to work with programming and to work with Temple-area schools. So many people in the Temple Symphony Orchestra are my colleagues so I already have a strong connection.”
“One of the things I’d like to do is bring in younger audiences,” he said. “I would want to have my thumb on the pulse of the community.”
Benson said if hired, he would most likely keep his other obligations in addition to becoming TSO’s artistic director.
Regardless of who ends up as the next permanent conductor of TSO, it’s unlikely they will become a Temple resident.
“Our new conductor will likely be conducting multiple orchestras and hold a position with a college music program,” Gary said. “But they will be responsible for a certain level of involvement in the community. They will be involved in raising money and conducting clinics for Temple High School’s orchestra program.”
“The conductor will be expected to help bring in financial support,” Gary said. “Our executive director, Jan Salzman, already represents TSO at functions and engagements in the absence of an artistic director.”
Gary said search committee and TSO board members will be sitting in on rehearsals, and on concert day, the committee will conduct formal interviews with the candidate directing that night’s show.
“The final concert of the season is April 29,” he said. “We will have a recommendation for the board in May. Hopefully they will approve that candidate by late May or early June.”
There are three big classical music events in Temple this month. Here’s a rundown:
MERZ TRIO: A very talented group that features a pianist, a violinist and a cellist will be performing at the Cultural Activities Center on Jan. 21. Violinist Brigid Coleridge, who also plays a mean fiddle, says the ensemble’s music has a “mix-tape feel. We’ve spent many, many hours riding in cars listening to each other’s music. We all like different things, and our concerts reflect that.”
WINDSYNC: A five-member classical ensemble fresh off a recording session at the iconic Abbey Road Studio in London will be performing at the Cultural Activities Center on Jan. 27. The group will perform a varied concert that will include Apollo, a “wild and funky” piece composed for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. Bassoonist Kara LaMoure, who hails from Plano, said the show would be “very danceable and groovy.”
TEMPLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: The Temple Symphony Orchestra will perform Jan. 28 at the Mary Alice Marshall Performing Arts Center at Temple College beginning at 7:30 p.m. TSO will be conducted by Beau Benson, one of four finalist for the TSO artistic director job. The concert will feature Shenanigan by Kati Agocs, Pulcinella Suite K034b by Igor Stravinski, and Symphony No. 5 in E Minor by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.