PHOENIX — The Phoenix Symphony Board of Directors and Association today announced that Virginia G. Piper Music Director Michael Christie has been named Music Director of the Minnesota Opera. Widely credited for transforming The Phoenix Symphony into a world class orchestra, Christie will step down from his current role when his contract expires at the end of the 2012/13 season (June, 2013).
“The Phoenix Symphony has been extraordinarily fortunate to have grown under the talent of Michael Christie, ” said C.A. Howlett, Chairman of The Phoenix Symphony Board of Directors. “His passion and enthusiasm have transformed this organization and energized our community. Michael’s artistic vision has emphasized creative and innovative programming that our audiences have embraced with standing ovations each and every performance. We will surely miss him.”
“I feel extremely fortunate to have spent some of the best professional years of my life with this enterprising and devoted staff and musicians,” said Michael Christie. “My overriding objective has been to solidify this orchestra’s place in the hearts of our community and do as much as I can to lay an enduring foundation for the future of symphonic music in our State. I am tremendously proud of what we have accomplished as an arts organization and I know the orchestra under the leadership of Jim Ward and a new Music Director will only continue to inspire and touch this special community.”
“The opportunity to relocate to Minnesota is fortuitous for both me and my wife, Alexis, who will continue her career with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota as a fellow of Intensive Care,” Christie added. ‘The symphonic and operatic worlds continue to present exceptional projects to me, so the end of the 2013 season is an ideal time for us to move forward with this important transition in our lives. Yet, I am excited about the next season here in Phoenix and am equally committed to executing my artistic vision for our wonderful patrons.”
Christie was named Music Director of The Phoenix Symphony beginning with the 2005/2006 season and immediately embarked on projects and initiatives to broaden the Symphony’s orchestral programming. Particularly dear to him is the Baroque Initiative that transformed the Symphony’s approach to some of the most beloved music of all time. Christie lead the orchestra in the Target World Music Festival and various mini festivals featuring Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. More than a dozen international composers such as John Adams, Jennifer Higdon and Osvaldo Golijov have heard their music played in Symphony Hall as a result of his Composer Spotlight Series.
Under Christie’s baton, the orchestra commissioned and performed the world premiere of Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio recorded live for the Naxos label. Additional world premieres include Phoenix by Golijov, March of the Metro by Daugherty and Procession of Duos by Mozetich. Christie also focused on the known standard repertory and introduced more than 150 lesser known works to the orchestra, chorus and audiences during his time in Phoenix. In 2009, The Phoenix Symphony received an award for its programming of contemporary music from The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Community involvement and accessibility have been the hallmark of Christie’s tenure. He introduced Intermission Insights to audiences, started Keeping Score, which offered real time program notes and started The Phoenix Symphony Commissioning Club. His collaborations with partner organizations such as ASU and Phoenix Theatre helped deepen the community’s connection and understanding of associated projects such as the year long Rediscovered Masters series.
“We are proud of Michael and his great accomplishments here with The Phoenix Symphony. It is only natural, with someone of Michael’s great talent, that he take every opportunity to advance to the next level,” said Jim Ward, Interim CEO of The Phoenix Symphony. “We are lucky to have him for the rest of this season and next and are excited about what he has planned for us all. This is also a wonderful opportunity for The Phoenix Symphony as we search for the next great talent as our musicians seem to be adept at developing and nurturing innovative conductors.”
The search for a new music director is already underway with a committee that includes musicians, members of the Board of Directors and staff.