The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) has been playing a feverish game of musical chairs for the last several months, and the dust finally appears to have settled.
When Music Director Leonard Slatkin gives the downbeat at the DSO season premiere at Orchestra Hall Sept. 28, the group will have a different look, and it may even sound a bit different, too.
The six-month strike that ended in April 2011 precipitated a whirlwind change in personnel, with some veteran DSO musicians either retiring or bolting for other orchestras — most notably former concertmaster Emmanuelle Boisvert, who landed at another DSO (the Dallas Symphony Orchestra) — while other instrumentalists arrived in Detroit to take their places.
In all, there are 10 new faces, counting Assistant Conductor Teddy Abrams, 25. All are young (there are five men and five women) — and gifted. One is the musically named Yoonshin Song, 30, who was hired in May to fill Boisvert’s seat. And if 30 sounds a little green to assume the most important position in the orchestra (aside from the conductor, of course), skeptics should keep in mind that Boisvert was only 25 when she was hired as DSO concertmaster in 1988.
The music director shapes the overall sound of an orchestra, but the concertmaster helps set the tone. The South Korean-born Song, who played with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra before her appointment here, is expected to do just that, says Gabrielle Poshadlo, Patron Communications and Public Relations Manager for the DSO. “She has an unusual disposition for a concertmaster,” Poshadlo says of Song. “She’s very soft spoken, but she knows what she wants.”
There will be an 11th addition, a violinist, but she’s opted to finish her master’s degree before joining the DSO, which could be as early as December. Poshadlo says this musician is also young.
Here’s a prelude of sorts to introduce these fresh faces in the orchestra.
Name: Teddy Abrams
DSO position: Assistant Conductor
Previous job: Resident Conductor of the MAV Symphony of Budapest (still keeping this) and Conducting Fellow of the New World Symphony (Miami Beach)
Why were you drawn to Detroit and its orchestra?: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is known worldwide for its extraordinary artistic quality, exceptional musicianship, and uniquely beautiful orchestral sound. … In addition, I was completely impressed with the DSO’s administration — the staff’s dedication, vision, and limitless belief in the orchestra was inspiring and affirming for me. I’ve visited Detroit several times already to work with the orchestra, and I know that this great city faces many challenges. But this makes my new job especially attractive. I can’t wait to be a part of the DSO’s mission to meld community and orchestra, and I know that we will be at the forefront of Detroit’s renaissance.
Favorite symphonic work: Honestly, whatever I’m conducting at the moment! But you can’t beat Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Stravinsky’s Petrushka, or Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.
What non-classical music do you listen to?: The Punch Brothers, Herbie Hancock, Led Zeppelin, Alison Krauss, The Who, a lot of klezmer and folk (especially ethnic Hungarian and Hungarian Gypsy), Ford Lallerstedt (improvised piano and organ music), and bluegrass/old-time folks like Bill Monroe or Flatt & Scruggs.
Name: Yoonshin Song
DSO position: Concertmaster
Previous post: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Rotating Violinist (Occasional Second Principal, Associate Concertmaster)
Why were you drawn to Detroit and its orchestra?: I was looking for a chance to challenge myself musically and personally, and that was exactly how I felt while leading the DSO in May. I felt very excited and comfortable at the same time. I am very honored to join such a wonderful orchestra like the DSO, and I am sure that we will have a great time together.
Favorite symphonic work: Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, many others. I am especially looking forward to the Beethoven cycle with the DSO
What non-classical music do you listen to?: I like jazz. Eddie Higgins, Charlie Haden, etc.
Name: Joseph Becker
DSO position: Principal Percussion
Previous post: Percussionist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra
Why were you drawn to Detroit and its orchestra?: Because of the DSO’s fantastic reputation.
Favorite symphonic work: Mahler’s Symphony No. 9.
What non-classical music do you listen to?: Radiohead, Joanna Newsom, Wilco, and Bowerbirds are some recent favorites.
Name: David Buck
DSO position: Principal Flute
Previous post: Principal Flute with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Oregon Symphony
Why were you drawn to Detroit and its orchestra?: Mainly because of the DSO’s wonderful tradition of musical excellence. Also, I missed the cold weather after living in L.A.!
Favorite symphonic work: I really enjoy playing works by 20th-century masters like Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Ravel — it’s hard to pick a favorite!
What non-classical music do you listen to?: I love jazz (Bill Evans, especially) and I also listen to a pretty eclectic mix of popular music. Lately, I’ve been really into the ’80s.
Name: Rachel Harding Klaus
DSO position: Second Violin
Previous post: Assistant Concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony
Why were you drawn to Detroit and its orchestra?: The [Colorado] Symphony was going through particularly bad times last year, so I knew it was time to move on. I grew up in Troy, Mich., and I regularly attended DSO concerts as a little girl. I was attracted to this symphony for the inspiration it was to me personally growing up. I remember being in the Civic Orchestra and sitting under DSO members doing our sectionals, and so it feels a bit surreal to now be a member of the DSO.
Favorite symphonic work: I recently had an amazing experience playing Mahler’s Third Symphony, so for the time being, that is my favorite symphonic work. (My favorite non-symphonic work is Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major.)
What non-classical music do you listen to?: I don’t know that I really have a favorite band, but I enjoy jazz, and a group I knew from Colorado, DeVotchKa.
Name: David LeDoux
DSO position: Section Cellist
Previous post: Principal Cellist, Syracuse Symphony Orchestra
Why were you drawn to Detroit and its orchestra?: It’s one of the great symphonies with a rich legacy.
Favorite symphonic work: Debussy’s La Mer (among many others).
What non-classical music do you listen to?: Latin music and jazz, from mid-’60s Miles Davis to Ari Hoenig.
Name: Peter McCaffrey
DSO position: Section Cellist
Previous post: Acting Principal Cellist of the Louisville Orchestra
Why were you drawn to Detroit and its orchestra?: The history of the orchestra, and the caliber of the musicians here, are unparalleled. And [Orchestra Hall] is arguably the best hall in the country.
Favorite symphonic work: Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta.
What non-classical music do you listen to?: I love listening to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, U2, and Radiohead.
Name: Sheryl Sul Hwangbo
DSO position: Second Violin
Previous post: Student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Juilliard, and the Manhattan School of Music.
Why were you drawn to Detroit and its orchestra?: I grew up in Michigan, and my family lives in Ann Arbor.
Favorite symphonic work: I can’t pick a favorite, but Beethoven is always great.
What non-classical music do you listen to?: All kinds of music. I love listening to singers, and I love jazz.
Name: Johanna Yarbrough
DSO position: Fourth Horn
Previous post: Graduate student at the Colburn School in Los Angeles
Why you were drawn to Detroit and its orchestra?: My teacher at Colburn, David Krehbiel, was Principal Horn in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the ’70s. This really inspired me,
and I felt a connection to the orchestra knowing the horn section here has such a long legacy.
Favorite symphonic work: Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 is my favorite; Mahler’s First for a very close second.
What non-classical music do you listen to?: I love all kinds of music. I particularly enjoy singers like Fiona Apple, Sybille Baier, and the Kings of Convenience.
Name: Monica Fosnaugh
DSO position: English Horn
Previous post: English Horn with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra
Why were you drawn to Detroit and its orchestra?: I’m originally from the Midwest, so I’ve been aware of the great legacy of the DSO for my entire career. Playing here feels like coming home.
Favorite symphonic work: I don’t have just one, but Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring come to mind.
What non-classical music do you listen to?: I love great jazz singers, but I’m also a sucker for the occasional ’80s rock ballad. I like a little bit of everything.