Kayoko Dan, who was one of the finalists to succeed George Zack as music director of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, has been chosen to lead the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras.
Dan said that when she met with the youth orchestra, she saw "a lot of bright faces and huge talents." She said she was looking forward to building relationships with school orchestra teachers because of the key role they play in the education of young musicians.
CKYO's announcement Monday ended a national search conducted by a 15-member committee to find a music director for the group, one of the oldest independently chartered youth orchestras in the United States. Established in 1947, CKYO has three orchestras and a jazz ensemble composed of nearly 300 students from 16 counties and 43 schools.
Dan's artistic skills, experience and academic credentials put her ahead of the other applicants, said Susan Robbins, president of the CKYO board of directors.
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Dan succeeds William Prinzing Briggs, who stepped down in spring 2008 after eight seasons with the orchestra. He and his wife moved to Germany.
Dan, 31, was the first candidate to audition to be the music director of the Lexington Philharmonic, in October 2007. That position was filled Friday by Scott Terrell.
She was born in Japan and spent her early childhood there. Her parents, both bankers, moved frequently.
In an interview with the Herald-Leader in 2007, when she auditioned with the Philharmonic, Dan said that after she moved to the United States and struggled with English, music was her primary form of expression.
"Music has been a really important way to keep my sanity moving from city to city and to keep some consistency in my life," she said. Although she is a petite 5 feet tall, Dan said she likes to be in charge.
And she is looking forward to having the artistic freedom to choose music and shape concerts.
Dan attended the University of Texas, where she persuaded her conducting professor to add a third-semester conducting course and pulled together a pickup orchestra for a conducting recital.
She attended graduate school at Arizona State University, where one of the big attractions was that she would be in charge of one of three student orchestras, giving her hands-on-the-baton experience. She holds a doctorate in conducting and a master's degree in music education from Arizona State.
She was assistant conductor with the Phoenix Symphony from 2005 to 2008. She has been working in fund-raising for DiverseArts in Austin, Texas, since January.
Dan was awarded the Herbert von Karajan Fellowship for Young Conductors by the Vienna Philharmonic and American-Austrian Foundation in 2007. In 2003, she received the David Effron Conducting Fellowship at the Chautauqua Institute.
Dan lists on Facebook her favorite activities as conducting, studying scores, training for triathlon, cooking and eating, traveling, reading and calling everything and everyone "cute." She is already looking for a house in Lexington. She'll be moving this summer with her dog, Maggie Moo, a border collie that she said looks like a cow.
She said she's ready for a change of seasons, but she will have to get used to the habit that Kentuckians seem to have of chatting with strangers like old friends.
"Everybody is so friendly here. They talk to you on the elevator. I'm used to big cities where people don't act like that," she said. "