Music News & Reviews

Philharmonic candidate drops out

The most recent candidate to audition for music director of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra has withdrawn his name from consideration. Alastair Willis, a Seattle-based conductor who was raised in Russia and England, conducted the Philharmonic on Feb. 13. He was the ninth, and penultimate, candidate to succeed George Zack as music director of the Philharmonic.

Earlier this week, through his agent, Willis sent the Philharmonic's executive director, Peter Kucirko, a short e-mail bowing out of the race.

"Thank you for inviting me and auditioning me in Lexington last week," Willis wrote. "I am grateful for the time and effort you invested in me, however upon much reflection I sincerely feel this position is not right for me at this time and therefore would like to withdraw my candidacy."

Search committee chairman John Carpenter said Willis' audition week went well and said, "God must have different plans for his career."

After terms as an associate and resident conductor with the orchestras in Cincinnati and Seattle, Willis embarked on a freelance conducting career that includes a regular gig with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble.

The Herald-Leader contacted Willis' management, but he did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

Kucirko said it is not uncommon for candidates to withdraw from music director searches. Carpenter said that considering this search has been going on for two years, he is surprised only one candidate has dropped out.

"We'll pick from nine," Carpenter said of where the search stands. "We're in a strong position going into the final candidate, and after that, I believe we will be able to make a great choice."

The final candidate is Mei-Ann Chen, who will conduct the Philharmonic at 8 p.m. March 27. She is currently assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.