The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra has chosen its next Music Director and it’s a familiar name: Robert Spano. Spano has been Principal Guest Conductor since 2019.
He will become Music Director Designate on April 1, 2021, and will serve in this capacity until assuming the title of Music Director on Aug. 1, 2022. His initial three-year term will begin with the 2022–23 season.
Spano, who turns 60 on May 7, is in his final season as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, a role he has held since 2001. He was music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic from 1996-04 and has been music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School since 2011. Spano led the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s “Marnie” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 2018.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra President and CEODr. Keith Cerny and Board Chair Mercedes T. Bass made the announcement today, Feb. 9 as they also announced next season’s programs.
“It is an exciting day for the FWSO to welcome Robert Spano as our next Music Director,” said Cerny. “I know that he will build on the outstanding legacy of our previous Music Director, Miguel Harth- Bedoya, and lead the orchestra to even greater musical acclaim. “
Spano will be the tenth Music Director in the history of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, which was founded in 1912. In addition to conducting six out of the orchestra’s 10 symphonic programs per season, he will be responsible for overseeing the orchestra and music staff; working closely with Cerny to shape the artistic direction of the orchestra and drive its continued growth; and serving as an ambassador for the orchestra and classical music in the Fort Worth community. Spano will soon relocate to Fort Worth and be on the ground working with the orchestra throughout his time as Music Director Designate. Among the responsibilities he will fulfill during this period are planning future seasons, overseeing orchestral auditions, and conducting two symphonic programs during the 2021–22 season.
Robert Spano made his FWSO debut in March 2019 conducting Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and Strauss’s Four Last Songs at the orchestra’s principal venue, Bass Performance Hall. His next FWSO performances take place March 16–18, 2021, when he conducts Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, featuring Jeremy Denk, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
Born in Elkhart, Indiana, Spano studied at the Oberlin Conservatory, where he is now on faculty, and at the Curtis Institute of Music. He went on to serve as an Assistant Conductor at the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa, then spent several years as a highly active guest conductor around the world. In 1996, he began his first music directorship, with the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Over the course of his eight-year tenure, he “turned the Brooklyn Philharmonic from a respected ensemble in an outer borough into an essential contributor to the cultural life of greater New York” (The New York Times).
Spano was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the FWSO on March 15, 2019.
During his 16 months as Music Director Designate, Robert Spano will be closely involved in the orchestra’s efforts to transition back to pre-pandemic presentations. Among the many aspects of the live concert experience that are unique to the present circumstances are social distancing in the audience and on stage, temperature screening, mandatory masks in the audience and—where feasible—on stage, comprehensive testing, and contact tracing. The FWSO has conducted more than 1,200 COVID-19 tests of musicians, administrative staff, and venue personnel, with a less than 1% positive rate.
By successfully innovating its business model to reopen safely for live audiences, the FWSO has been able to continue paying its musicians and staff in full during the ongoing pandemic. The implementation of this business model has been made possible by support from Mercedes T. Bass, the Kleinheinz Family Foundation for the Arts and Education, and Ed Schollmaier, in memory of Rae Schollmaier.