Director of Orange County’s longest-serving symphony orchestra announces final season
Carl St. Clair, Pacific Symphony’s musical director, will leave his longtime position, likely at the end of the 2023-24 season. The announcement, made today, mentions the possibility of a further contract extension if necessary until a suitable successor is found for the position. St. Clair will continue his association with the symphony, although the nature of the relationship has not been revealed.
St. Clair, who turned 70 in June, has called for the symphony orchestra’s board to undertake succession plans ensuring continuity of leadership. “The musicians of Pacific Symphony and I have shared an extraordinary 33-year journey, and I am honored that the Board of Directors has extended my contract for two seasons and that I remain Music Director until 2023-24, if not longer” , said St .Clair said.
Born in Hochheim, Texas, St.Clair attended the University of Texas and studied conducting with Gustav Meier at the University of Michigan and Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood. He was Music Director of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 1992 and held a teaching position at the University of Michigan during this time. In 1986, he became assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
In January 1990, St.Clair conducted the Pacific Symphony Orchestra for the first time. The orchestra was looking for a successor to its founding musical director, Keith Clark, and St.Clair was chosen for the position from among a number of more prominent and experienced conductors.
St.Clair brought greater visibility and a succession of accomplishments to the orchestra. Commissioned works include Richard Danielpour’s “An American Requiem” and Elliot Goldenthal’s “Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio” with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The orchestra and St. Clair host an annual festival of American composers. They performed in China and at Carnegie Hall in 2018.
The orchestra made its national debut on PBS in June 2018 on “Great Performances” with “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” by Peter Boyer, conducted by St. Clair. The orchestra’s opera initiative, “Symphonic Voices”, has featured opera-concert productions of “Madame Butterfly”, “The Magic Flute”, “Aida”, “Turandot”, “Carmen”, ” La Traviata”, “Tosca” and “La Bohème.”
St.Clair also enjoyed an active career in Europe. He was principal guest conductor of Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart from 1998 to 2004. He became Generalmusikdirektor of the Staatskapelle Weimar in 2005, a position he held for three years. In 2008 he was appointed Generalmusikdirektor of the Komische Oper Berlin, but in May 2010 he resigned over a dispute over a director’s interpretation of Beethoven’s “Fidelio”. In 2012, St. Clair was appointed Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Thornton Symphony Orchestra at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.
“I am so grateful to Carl for remaining committed to Pacific Symphony. As a visionary and orchestra builder, Carl has a singular commitment to Orange County. He has a deep love for the musicians he has collaborated with” “, said John Forsyte, President and CEO of Pacific Symphony. “Of course, it is a great emotion for all of us who love Carl’s work. We know that Carl will play an important role within the Pacific Symphony in foreseeable future.”
In a Monday interview with Voice of OC, St. Clair stressed that his relationship with the symphony will continue after his current contract ends, and he is focused on helping to make the transition as smooth as possible.
“I will be music director until I move on to an award-winning position. I want it to be clear. I will continue my relationship with (the orchestra). I’m doing this so that we can have a nice transition, so that the Pacific Symphony doesn’t lose anything. What often happens is that transitions like this can really take a toll on an orchestra. I try to avoid all that.
St. Clair said he expects to continue to enjoy a close and warm association with the symphony. “My relationship with the musicians, the board, the community has remained positive. Our recent concert was just dynamite. We continue to make music together in a very passionate and committed way, which I am very grateful for.
St. Clair said he has no plans to move, even after his current contract with the symphony orchestra ends.
“I spoke to the board yesterday and had a wonderful conversation with the orchestra last night. I told them how this community and the Pacific Symphony family have embraced me and my family at Through all of our darkest times and some of our happiest times, and we thank everyone. Orange County is my home. This is where I go to rest. This is it. We love the city. where we live, Laguna Beach, we love Orange County and we love the Pacific Symphony.
We still need $3,000 to reach our goal!
We have the opportunity to match a $10,000 donation thanks to a generous opportunity from the Ernest and Irma Rose Foundation.
So far, we’ve received $7,000 from donors like you!
For every dollar you donate today by clicking the button below, we will receive $2 which will be exclusively used to fund arts and culture stories.
Help us reach our goal by donating today!
Paul Hodgins is the founding editor of Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. He can be contacted at [email protected]