Dayton Philharmonic to announce new music and artistic director

Credit: ©Andy Snow 2005

Credit: ©Andy Snow 2005

The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance (DPAA) will announce the new music and artistic director of the Dayton Philharmonic on Tuesday, May 7.

Neal Gittleman has served as DPO artistic director and conductor since 1995. In addition to broadening the DPO repertoire with more 20th century compositions, he has introduced a number of world, American and Dayton Philharmonic premieres and has expanded performance collaboration within the Dayton arts community, including the Stained Glass Series/Norma Ross Memorial Community Concerts.



Smooth transition

In May 2022, the DPAA announced Gittleman charted a five-year course for his retirement from the philharmonic in 2027. Gittleman will have been director for 32 years at the end of the five years. In a press statement, he ensured a “smooth and orderly transition.”

“Although I am not quite ready to hang up my baton, I understand how critical it is to have succession planning in place within our performing arts organization,” Gittleman said at the time. “I love my job, I love the amazing artists with whom I have the privilege to work, and I love the dedicated team of staff, supporters, and audience members who make it possible for me to do this work that I love every day. I’d prefer to retire from conducting the orchestra a little too soon than one second too late. I’ve always tried to do this job at 100% commitment, and I don’t ever want to be in a position—physically or emotionally—where I feel that can’t do that.”

Gittleman’s background

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Neal Gittleman graduated from Yale University in 1975. He continued his musical studies with the eminent teachers Nadia Boulanger and Annette Dieudonné in Paris, Hugh Ross at the Manhattan School of Music and Charles Bruck at both the Pierre Monteux Domaine School and the Hartt School of Music, where he was the recipient of the Karl Böhm Fellowship. In 1984, he was the Second Prize Winner of Geneva’s Ernest Ansermet International Conducting Competition, and, two years later, he was awarded Third Prize at the Leopold Stokowski Conducting Competition in New York City. In 1989, he was selected for the American Conductors Program at the American Symphony Orchestra League’s annual conference in San Francisco. In May 2014, he was awarded a 2014 Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio for Community Development and Participation. Under his direction, the Dayton Philharmonic has received the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music nine times.

Potential successors

The DPAA Board conducted a national search for Gittleman’s successor. The final selection remains a mystery but based on DPO guest conducting assignments in recent seasons, two diverse-minded choices are on my radar.

Antoine T. Clark, founding artistic and music director of the Worthington Chamber Orchestra. Clark was named assistant conductor of West Virginia’s Wheeling Symphony Orchestra in fall 2021. Guest engagements include Chicago Sinfonietta, the Chamber Orchestra of New York and Richmond Symphony. Clark led the DPO Masterworks Series presentation of “Symphonie fantastique” in November 2022.

Kensho Watanabe, a Yale graduate who spent four years as assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and opened the 2023-2024 season by making his Detroit Opera debut with Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” He will also return to New York’s Metropolitan Opera next month to conduct “The Hours.” Watanabe led the DPO Masterworks Series presentation of “Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony” in January 2024.

In particular, Clark and Watanabe met Gittleman at the Pierre Monteux School, a summer program for young conductors and orchestral musicians, in Hancock, Maine.

More details

The announcement event will be at 1 p.m. May 7 inside the Eichelberger Forum of the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton.

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