On Monday Mar. 13, The Macon Symphony Orchestra and Mercer University announced Ward Stare as the new music director of MSO’s new conductor and music director as well as Mercer’s distinguished artist and university orchestra conductor. Stare has signed a three-year contract that will split his time between the symphony and Mercer. Terms of the contract haven’t been disclosed as of late. MSO board president Gene Dunwody said the partnership between the symphony and Mercer was what helped create a financial package attractive enough to land a conductor of Stare’s caliber.
Having had a fruitful career thus far, Stare has been an exciting addition to the MSO and Mercer family. At age 18, Stare was appointed as principal trombonist of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and has performed as an orchestral musician with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Currently, Stare serves as resident conductor of the St. Louis Symphony, a position that was created for him.
At 29, Stare is “already established, but he’s young enough where the energy and the passion is there. He can appeal to a young audience, which Macon desperately needs,” said Dr. John Dickson, Dean of Townsend School of Music at Mercer, in a recent interview. It’s important to have a music director who can appeal to a younger audience, which will continue to help keep classical music alive in Macon. “After a long and intensive search, we have found, in Maestro Stare, a musical artist with the gifts, charisma and vision to lead the MSO toward a bright and successful future while shaping Mercer University’s Orchestra into a world-class chamber ensemble,” adds Dickson.
Sheryl Towers, chief executive officer of the MSO, says “We have a bright, new vision for our orchestra which we think will be embraced by our community.” Stare, being a vital component for bringing this new vision to life, said in a recent interview, “There is so much talent here musically and there is so much energy right now and the desire to grow and push it even further and that sort of chemistry and atmosphere is something that really excited me and made me want to be apart of it,” added Towers.
As far as his job as conductor and music director is concerned, coming up with a program for an orchestra is one of Stare’s favorite challenges. “Putting a program together is like a chef putting together a dinner,” he says. “It’s what flavors you come up with. [In music], it’s what you put alongside interesting pieces. When you listen to a piece that’s unfamiliar and listen to one of the great classics, you often listen to that piece in a different way….Anything I find interesting is something I’ll conduct. I’m always interested in new pieces.”
Stare is excited about the chance to make sweet music with both Mercer University and the Macon Symphony Orchestra. He hopes to share his love of music with the people of Macon. “Music is such a great way to reach out and connect with people and I think that’s it’s greatest power and that’s something which makes me want to get up every morning and be a musician,” said Stare.
Stare’s first public performance in Macon as new conductor and music director will be in September later this year.