LSM Newswire

Friday, October 16, 2009

Minnesota Orchestra Names Sarah Hicks Principal Conductor of Pops and Presentations

Ms. Hicks to lead Orchestra's U.S. Bank Pops Season through August 2013

October 12, 2009 -- Sarah Hicks has been appointed the Minnesota Orchestra's Principal Conductor of Pops and Presentations, Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson announced today. Ms. Hicks, who will assume the new role immediately, will lead the Orchestra's signature U.S. Bank Pops Season for a term of four years, through 2012-13. Ms. Hicks joined the Orchestra as assistant conductor in 2006, making history as the first woman to hold a titled conducting post with the Minnesota Orchestra.

"Pops concerts play an important role in the Minnesota Orchestra's artistic offerings, and we have taken our time in identifying a new pops leader in order to find the right fit with audiences, the Orchestra—and the music itself," says Michael Henson. "We've discovered that Sarah Hicks is made for this role. She sparks great connections with audiences; she has earned the respect of the musicians; she is a creative programmer; and she wants to focus her creative energies on expanding the boundaries of pops programming for new audiences."

Says Music Director Osmo Vänskä, "We knew from the start of Sarah's tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra that she was a conductor to watch, someone who had a great deal to offer. Today we share that conviction with the public with this important appointment. I have always said that we must take care of all the music we present and our pops performances will be in very capable hands with Sarah. She is ready to lead them in new directions."

Ms. Hicks will oversee artistic planning for the Orchestra's pops season and will conduct a minimum of four sets of pops concerts each year. Under the terms of the agreement, she will also "cross over" to lead programs of many types with the Minnesota Orchestra every year. She will continue to conduct and program the popular Inside the Classics concerts and will lead holiday concerts and additional performances presented by the Orchestra. In the upcoming two weeks, for example, Ms. Hicks will lead Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony in a pair of Inside the Classics concerts, a Broadway-themed pops performance, a "sampler" program introducing audiences to the Orchestra's varied offerings, and the Minnesota Orchestra debut of singer-songwriter Ben Folds.

"Being able to conduct concerts with such great variety, from Beethoven to Ben Folds, is my dream job," says Ms. Hicks. "I am thrilled to embark on this new role with the Minnesota Orchestra because I believe there is tremendous artistic potential for where we might go. While the Orchestra has an established tradition of celebrating American popular music, from Broadway to Big Band—which we'll continue to do—there are many other avenues across the spectrum of popular music for us to explore, and I look forward to that journey in upcoming seasons."

In the 2009-10 pops season, Ms. Hicks will conduct the return of country star Kathy Mattea, "Scandinavian Christmas" performances in December, jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli in a Valentine's Day celebration and Michael Cavanaugh singing the music of Billy Joel, among other concerts.

Ms. Hicks joins the Minnesota Orchestra artistic leadership team that includes Music Director Osmo Vänskä, Artistic Director of Sommerfest Andrew Litton, and Artistic Director of Jazz Irvin Mayfield. Trumpeter Doc Severinsen served as the Orchestra's Principal Pops Conductor from 1993 to 2007, and now serves as Pops Conductor Laureate.

"The Minnesota Orchestra offers a great range of concerts through its season—from classical and jazz to pops and summer fare—and we are pleased to have top artistic leadership in place for all of this music to thrive for years to come for Minnesota audiences," says Mr. Henson.

Sarah Hicks joined the Minnesota Orchestra as assistant conductor in 2006. In 2007 the Orchestra launched a new three-concert series called Inside the Classics, tapping Ms. Hicks to serve as conductor and co-host with violist Sam Bergman, with whom she now maintains a blog at Offering a fresh take on symphonic classics, Inside the Classics is written and programmed by Ms. Hicks and Bergman and, in its third season, has achieved series renewals exceeding 95 percent, a 35 percent increase over the prior year. In December 2008, Ms. Hicks introduced a new holiday offering, arranging music for and conducting "A Scandinavian Christmas," which will return for its second season in December 2009. Ms. Hicks made her classical subscription debut last October and returns to that series this November conducting performances of Hansel and Gretel.

Before joining the Minnesota Orchestra, Ms. Hicks served as associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony. She was previously resident conductor of the Florida Philharmonic and assistant conductor of the Reading Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Singers, the chorus of the Philadelphia Orchestra. She has also served as music director of the Hawaii Symphony, an ensemble she founded in 1991 and led for five seasons. In September 2009 she was appointed associate conductor of the North Carolina Symphony.

Ms. Hicks has guest conducted both in the U.S. and abroad, leading such ensembles as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Prime Philharmonic of Korea and the East Slovak State Opera. Her engagements for the 2009-10 season include guest performances with the National Symphony Orchestra and sessions to complete a recording project with the Vermont Symphony for release on the Koch label.

Born in Tokyo and raised in Honolulu, Ms. Hicks received her bachelor's degree from Harvard University as a composition major; her AIDS Oratorio was premiered there in May 1993 and received a second performance at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum. She holds an artist's diploma in conducting from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with renowned pedagogue Otto-Werner Mueller. After graduation, she maintained her association with Curtis as a faculty member from 2000 to 2005. Ms. Hicks and her husband, a horn player, recently bought a home in Minneapolis.

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