Eckart Preu will leave the Spokane Symphony at the end of the 2018-19 season to dedicate more time to his new role as music director of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra in California and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.
“I love this orchestra, and I love this community,” Preu said in a news release. “At this point in my career, there are more opportunities knocking. My new positions in Long Beach and Cincinnati are taking more of my attention, as is my family. I love Spokane, and look forward to planning an extraordinary finish through the end of next season.”
Preu has been the symphony’s music director since 2004. This one-year contract extension will bring his tenure to 15 years, second only to Donald Thulean, who served as music director for 22 years.
Spokane Symphony Executive Director Jeff vom Saal said conversations about Preu’s departure have been happening for some time, so while this news did not come as a surprise, it was still hard to hear.
“We love Eckart and his work with the orchestra so very much,” vom Saal said. “He is adored equally by our orchestra, staff, board, volunteers and, of course, our subscribers and our donors. … We as an organization and a community have nothing but enormous praise for the work he has done and has brought the orchestra up to a higher level of performance.”
In a news release, Lorrie Scott, president of the Spokane Symphony Board of Trustees, said the board plans to launch an international search for a new music director in the fall, with the goal of having the position filled by May 2019.
Vom Saal said a committee to find a replacement has not yet formed but that it will include members of the orchestra and the board of trustees, with community input taken into account as well.
“Eckart has positioned us so well to attract, honestly, some of the best talent in the country, if not internationally,” he said. “Through his work with the orchestra, I expect an enormous number of applicants, probably in the hundreds, then we will narrow them down.”
During Preu’s time as music director, the symphony received a first-place award for “Adventurous Programming” from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers during the 2013-14 season. He also worked on community collaborations including Uncharted, with Terrain, and Music Heals, with the Spokane Tribe.
“The orchestra is playing at its highest level, I think, ever and he really is to thank for that,” vom Saal said. “We look forward to every moment we have with him while he’s still with us. … We adore Eckart and are sad to see him go but are so incredibly thankful for his incredibly great work with the orchestra over the years.”
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