NEW ORLEANS – For 17 seasons the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra has been under the musical direction of Carlos Miguel Prieto. That changes this summer when conductor Matthew Kraemer takes the reigns.
The orchestra's Board of Trustees recently announced that Kramer will take over in July and make his official introduction to music lovers in mid-September.
Kraemer called the appointment an “opportunity of a lifetime.”
“I am thrilled. I can't wait to relocate. Summer can't come fast enough," he told The Associated Press. He described the Louisiana Philharmonic as “part of the cultural fabric of New Orleans and Louisiana” and said that he's “grateful for the LPO's trust.”
The Louisiana Philharmonic is a musician-owned cooperative created in 1991 after the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra collapsed under debt. It describes itself as the nation’s oldest full-time musician-governed and collaboratively operated orchestra.
Dr. Bernard Jaffe, the board president, said the organization had been searching “for a leader to take our talented musicians to new artistic heights and firmly plant roots in our great city, and we found exactly that person in Matthew.”
Kraemer, a native of Indiana, was appointed music director and principal conductor of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra in 2015. He also served as music director of the Butler County Symphony in Pennsylvania and artistic director of Orchestra Indiana. In addition, he is a frequent collaborator with Broadway star Idina Menzel and has served as conductor for many of her engagements across the U.S.
“I'm a collaborative conductor,” Kraemer said of his style. “I am comfortable in how I work with musicians. I believe in being efficient and using rehearsal time strategically." He said he believes in a lot of preparation beforehand to create an environment where the musicians "feel they can play their best.”
“He has exquisite musical intelligence and interpretive skills, considerable organizational leadership experience, and all the qualities of a modern music director," Jaffe said.
Kraemer noted that under Prieto's leadership the Louisiana Philharmonic was very successful at promoting the orchestra — and has left a lasting impact on it and the community.
“I look forward to continuing the great work that’s been done as well as exploring new collaborations,” he said. “The possibilities are great as we work toward what the orchestra looks like in the 21st century.”
“Orchestras are no longer only classical music,” he said. “It's anything, from rock to opera and beyond." He said that in recent years the Louisiana Philharmonic has heralded the city's local talents, such as Tank and the Bangas, Big Freedia and the Lost Bayou Ramblers. “Though as an art form its 400 years old, it's very in tune with today,” he said. "It's not unusual to hear the ‘Star Wars’ theme alongside the more typical pieces from Mozart or Beethoven. ”
As director, Kraemer said he looked forward to “making a deeper impression on youth in the community.”
“I really want to get instruments into their hands and show them that such learning is really a lifetime reward,” he said. “Through music they learn determination, perseverance and how to work together to create something magical. It's fascinating what music can do. It imparts life lessons and shows them the value of work and staying invested in something."
Kraemer said accepting the Louisiana Philharmonic's offer to lead it was an opportunity he couldn't turn down.
“The challenge, the creative possibilities all are present with this orchestra,” he said. “And, the city is absolutely fascinating to me. Me and my family embrace change, and we're so looking forward to getting to know the city's history and culture.”