The Spokane Symphony has hired Jeff vom Saal as its new executive director.
He comes to Spokane from the Marin Symphony in Northern California, where he serves as executive director. Previously, he served as executive director of the Quad City Symphony in Davenport, Iowa, and the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra in North Dakota. He’s also a musician, having earned a bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance from the New England Conservatory of Music in 2001.
While leaving the Marin Symphony, based in San Rafael, will be bittersweet, vom Saal said in a phone interview Monday morning he is eager to join the team in Spokane.
“Spokane has a fabulous orchestra,” vom Saal said. “It’s the quality of the music, the quality of the ensemble, the leadership. … They all embody the right mix. They are passionate, and at the same time they’re disciplined and have a very good understanding of both the opportunities and challenges facing all orchestras today.”
He added, “There’s a warmth and a connection I felt immediately. And there’s this energy level I’m really excited to become part of.”
Vom Saal, 36, replaces Brenda Nienhouse, who left Spokane last summer after a 10-year tenure with the symphony to take a job in Rhode Island. He was selected after a national search conducted by a committee that included representatives from the symphony’s board, community members, symphony musicians and staff, and music director Eckart Preu.
He begins his tenure as executive director of both the symphony and the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on May 1. It’s the second part of the job description that will present a new challenge for vom Saal. Running the venue the arts organization owns and operates is something new to him.
“I’ve not had the opportunity to be involved in the day-to-day operations of taking care of the concert hall, maintaining it, and also thinking about ways to further the venue’s relevance,” he said. “That theater is magnificent.”
Nienhouse certainly left a significant mark on the symphony and the Fox. She not only was one of the driving forces behind the Fox Theater’s restoration, but she was active in the arts on a statewide level. She helped usher in what the organization called a cultural renaissance, which included successful collaborations with everyone from Spokane Public Schools and the Spokane Tribe to local indie rock bands and Spokane Civic Theatre.
“We are absolutely delighted that Jeff has accepted our offer to join the Spokane Symphony and Fox Theater,” symphony board President Lorrie Scott said in a news release. “Jeff has an impressive artistic background, strong leadership experience and a successful history of enhancing the financial health of two symphony orchestras. His enthusiasm, passion for orchestras, creativity and financial acumen are a perfect fit for our organization and we are all looking forward to working with him.”
Vom Saal’s hiring comes shortly after the symphony extended Preu’s contract through the 2017-18 season, according to the news release.
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