Music Director Candidate James Blachly Leads Music of Beethoven, Dawson, and Montgomery on April 16 at SCSU

Wednesday • March 29, 2023

On Sunday, April 16 at 3:00 p.m. at the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts at Southern Connecticut State University, guest conductor and music director candidate James Blachly will lead the New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO) in a concert program including Jessie Montgomery’s Soul Force, William Levi Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Concerto featuring guest soloist Simone Porter.

Grammy-winning conductor James Blachly is the fourth and final candidate auditioning this season to be the NHSO’s next music director. Dedicated to enriching the concert experience by connecting with audiences in memorable and meaningful ways, Blachly currently serves as Music Director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and of the Experiential Orchestra in NYC. He is a versatile guest conductor in diverse repertoire with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic. He has served as Ensemble Director for the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids program, and was instrumental in launching what is now Make Music NOLA, a thriving El Sistema-Inspired program in New Orleans.

The first half of the April 16 program will feature William Levi Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony, of which Blachly says, “I am deeply honored and excited to be conducting in its New Haven Symphony premiere. It is an extraordinary symphony on every level.” Born in 1899, William Levi Dawson was an American composer, professor, musicologist, and prominent proponent of African American Spirituals. Despite its international success after its premiere in 1934, the Negro Folk Symphony had fallen into obscurity by the end of the 20th century. Blachly added, “It’s a piece that just jumps off the page, and deserves to be heard in every concert hall in this country – and it will be especially thrilling to hear played by your own New Haven Symphony.”

The concert will open with contemporary composer Jessie Montgomery’s Soul Force, named for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s statement that “Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” The second half of the concert program will focus on Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, performed by special guest violin soloist Simone Porter.

In the past few years, Simone Porter has debuted with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and with a number of renowned conductors, including Stéphane Denève, Gustavo Dudamel, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Nicholas McGegan, Ludovic Morlot, and Donald Runnicles. Born in 1996, Simone made her professional solo debut at age 10 with the Seattle Symphony and her international debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London at age 13. In March 2015, Simone was named a recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant.

Four music director finalists – Donato Cabrera, Tania Miller, Perry So, and James Blachly – will each spend a different week in New Haven this winter and spring, rehearsing with the orchestra for a concert that they have programmed, leading music education activities, and meeting with key community constituency groups. The NHSO’s search committee, comprising musicians, board directors, and community members, will announce the NHSO’s new music director in the Summer of 2023. Current Music Director Alasdair Neale’s tenure will continue through the Spring of 2024 and the new Music Director will begin in the role in the Summer of 2024.

Tickets: Tickets start at $15. Tickets for youth 17 and under are free with the purchase of an adult ticket. To purchase tickets, visit or call (203) 693-1486 Monday-Friday from 12-5pm.

Blachly Conducts Dawson & Beethoven is sponsored by Southern Connecticut State University, the National Endowment for the Arts, Frontier, and the New Haven Register.

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