ISO chooses young maestro Urbanski as director

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The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra announced Tuesday that it has chosen 28-year-old Krzysztof Urbanski as its new music director.

A native of Poland, Urbanski is an up-and-comer in Europe and Japan. He was named chief conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra in Norway in September 2009 after one appearance. He made his U.S. debut with the ISO on April 16 and was invited to return for the opening of the summer series, "Symphony on the Prairie."

Krystof conductor 15 columnKrzysztof Urbanski was named Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's new music director. (Photo courtesy DG Photography, Ole-Einar Andersen Adresseavisen)

“We saw 18 different conductors last season, and he jumped out of the pile,” symphony CEO Simon Crookall said.

Urbanski’s appointment is effective Sept. 1, 2011, for a four-year term. He will be the seventh music director in the orchestra's 80-year-history.

The music director search kicked off in 2009 after Crookall made the controversial decision—weeks before the September opening of the 2009-10 season—not to renew maestro Mario Venzago's contract. Venzago spent seven years as ISO's music director.

Though some classical music fans, as well as orchestra musicians, were upset over Venzago's sudden departure, Crookall said the change was necessary to bolster the symphony's relationship with the community. This July, the symphony announced the start of a $100 million fund-raising campaign.

“It gives us something to rally the community around,” Crookall said of Urbanski’s appointment. “It’s an important symbol of the future of the orchestra.”

The ISO is the largest performing arts organization in Indiana and one of only 17 year-round orchestras in the nation.

Urbanski appeared at a press conference Tuesday afternoon and thanked the musicians and Indianapolis.

“I’m very impressed by the warmth of its people," he said. "To be the music director of an American symphony orchestra is actually the fulfillment of my dreams, and I’m very excited about what the future holds. I can’t wait to share my love of music with this great community.”

Crookall declined to say how much the ISO would pay its new conductor. Venzago earned $388,695 in 2008.

Urbanski, now "music director designate," will return for concerts on May 20 and 21. He will conduct for six weeks in the 2011-2012 season and a minimum of 10 weeks the following season. The first three years of his appointment will run concurrent with his post in Trondheim. Despite the double duty, Crookall said he expects Urbanski will spend more time here than his predecessor.

The ISO said that in addition to guiding ISO's artistic vision, Urbanski will be responsible for "strengthening the organization’s profile at home and abroad." He will also provide "insight and service" on educational and community initiatives and preside over auditions for vacant orchestra seats.

"The musicians are excited to embark on the next chapter of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Urbanski,” said Rick Graef, assistant principal horn and member of the search committee, in a prepared statement. “He has shown the energy, artistic vision and passion to take us to new musical heights. His skills, when combined with the talent, creativity and musicality of our ISO musicians, will create exciting experiences for our audiences.”

Urbanski graduated from the Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw, Poland, in 2007, and was unanimous first-prize winner of the Prague Spring International Conducting Competition later that year.

“The ISO has served as a cornerstone of the city’s cultural community for 80 years,” said John Thornburgh, chairman of the ISO board of directors, in a prepared statement. “With Krzysztof’s leadership, we anticipate the continued transformation of the organization as one that will present innovative concerts to reach more diverse audiences, bring collaborative music education programs into our schools and neighborhoods, and be fiscally secure and valued by the central Indiana area and beyond.”

Crookall said that in addition to serving as music director of the ISO, Urbanski will be an adjunct professor at the Indiana University School of Music.

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