South Carolina Philharmonic

News

April 21, 2008

Morihiko Nakahara named S.C. Philharmonic Music Director

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A two-year search process resulted in Morihiko Nakahara being selected as the South Carolina Philharmonic’s new music director, the fifth in the orchestra’s 45-year history.

Nakahara was the music director search committee’s top choice and his hiring was the result of unanimous selection.

The associate conductor of the Jacksonville and Spokane (Wash.) symphony orchestras and director of orchestras at Eastern Washington University, Nakahara conducted the orchestra for its Oct. 13, 2007 Master Series concert.

His first concert as music director is Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. when the orchestra’s Master Series begins at the Koger Center. He will be officially introduced at a 10:30 a.m. press conference today at the Koger Center.

“Morihiko Nakahara is the perfect person to take us forward musically and to engage our audience and community,” said Robert Stepp, president of the SCP Board of Directors. “I love his youthful enthusiasm and his eagerness to get the job done. The orchestra is entering an exciting period of excellence.”

Rhonda Hunsinger, executive director of the SCP, said, “Morihiko is an exceptionally gifted conductor who comes to the South Carolina Philharmonic at a pivotal time in our orchestra’s history. As Columbia engages in initiatives to become a great city, Morihiko is destined to take its orchestra to new heights of artistic excellence.”

“Maestro Nakahara set the bar high with a natural, instinctive style that musicians found inspiring,” said Gail Morrison, who was chairwoman of the Music Director Search Committee. “His love of teaching and his ability to engage young and old alike will stand the SCP in good stead. His commitment to engaging ‘in an ongoing civic and cultural dialogue within a community,’ as he describes it, will be a wonderful asset for the SCP as it grows and develops under Maestro Nakahara’s baton.”

A native of Kagoshima, Japan, Nakahara holds degrees from Andrews University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He studied conducting with Rodney Winther, Timothy Muffitt, Mark Gibson, Lawrence Leighton Smith, Larry Rachleff and Alan Mitchell, among others.
 
Nakahara became associate conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in September 2007 and has been associate conductor of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra and director of orchestras at Eastern Washington University since 2003. During the summer of 2007, Nakahara guest conducted the Young Artists Orchestra at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. Other recent guest conducting appearances include the Missoula Symphony Orchestra and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. An emerging talent among the younger generation of conductors, Nakahara was featured in the American Symphony Orchestra League’s National Conductor Preview in March 2005.

The SCP named Nakahara one of seven finalists for its music director position in January 2007. Each was allowed to conduct a concert during the 2007/2008 season and to provide input into the musical works to be performed. The other finalists were Miriam Burns, David Commanday; Adam Flatt; Sarah Hatsuko Hicks; Carolyn Kuan, who withdrew herself from consideration; and Steven Lipsitt.

A full schedule of the SCP’s 2008/2009 season is being finalized and will be released soon.

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QUOTES FROM PHILHARMONIC PERSONNEL

Robert E. Stepp, Esq.
President of the S.C. Philharmonic Board of Directors
“I am delighted with the selection of Morihiko Nakahara as the new Music Director for the South Carolina Philharmonic. He is the perfect person to take us forward musically and to engage our audience and community.  I love his youthful enthusiasm and his eagerness to get the job done. The orchestra is entering an exciting period of excellence.”

Rhonda P. Hunsinger
Executive Director of the S.C. Philharmonic
“Morihiko is an exceptionally gifted conductor who comes to the South Carolina Philharmonic at a pivotal time on our orchestra’s history. His ability to connect musically with the musicians is as inspiring as his natural gift of community outreach, which I witnessed repeatedly as we visited with our League, student groups, sponsors, patrons and civic organizations during his concert week. As Columbia engages in initiatives to become a great city, Morihiko is destined to take its orchestra to new heights of artistic excellence.”

Gail M. Morrison
Chairwoman of the Music Director Search Committee

“As hard as it was, winnowing 232 wonderful music director candidates down to seven finalists was not the most difficult part of the Search Committee’s challenge.  Rather, the question that kept me up at night was how we would be able to process the extensive input from all our stakeholder groups and identify from among all our talented finalists that special someone who was the right fit for us. Who would emerge as that gifted person who could bring that special flare of energy, imagination and inspiration to player and auditor alike? Someone opined that it was inevitable that we would select the candidate with the longest, most difficult name (at least for those of us unfamiliar with Japanese), but as it turned out, we need not have worried. Once we “heard” Morihiko Nakahara conduct, once we “watched” him lead the music, remembering his name was never a problem.

“The second candidate to audition, Maestro Nakahara set the bar high with a natural, instinctive style that musicians found inspiring. He challenged the orchestra with a difficult, modern piece, Golijov’s Last Round, and he challenged himself and the musicians by conducting beautifully a work he had not performed before, Prokofiev’s “Suite from Romeo and Juliet,” rather than a standard audition repertoire piece. But it was not just to his musical performance that the Search Committee returned over and over as we evaluated subsequent candidates. His musical seriousness is balanced by an engaging playfulness and sense of fun, which are reflected in his many creative ideas for audience outreach and engagement. His love of teaching and his ability to engage young and old alike will stand the SCP in good stead. His commitment to engaging ‘in an ongoing civic and cultural dialogue within a community,’ as he describes it, will be a wonderful asset for the SCP as it grows and develops under Maestro Nakahara’s baton.”

Doug Graham
Music Director Search Committee & Players’ Committee Co-Chairman

“Morihiko has a great future as a conductor. We are lucky to get him at a perfect moment in his career. He is a superior musician and has a natural gift for conducting. That gift allows him to communicate in a very elegant and expressive way with the orchestra.  We will have a great time with Morihiko, and I'm convinced that Columbia music lovers will, too.”

Petrea Warneck
Music Director Search Committee & Players’ Committee Co-Chairwoman

"We are about to embark on an exciting journey with Morihiko Nakahara as our new Music Director. There was an immediate chemistry when he stepped on the podium last October and this feeling of excitement, motivation and inspiration has continued to be a topic of conversation within the orchestra throughout the season. Morihiko not only gets the job done but he inspires musicians to want to give more – all the time – in rehearsals and in performance.  He is exciting to watch and makes what we do FUN!  He will be a true ambassador for the arts in Columbia and the orchestra is going to shine under his leadership.”


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