RPO announces two new endowed chairs

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra this week said two new endowed chairs have been created. The Fred M. and Lurita Wechsler chair and The Lisk Morris Foundation Inc. chair are both funded in perpetuity.

The Fred M. Wechsler Family Trust has chosen to endow the Associate Concertmaster chair, while the Lisk Morris Foundation has chosen to create a permanent endowment supporting the RPO’s education programs and the position of director of education, currently held by Barbara Brown.

The Lisk Morris Foundation is a family foundation formed by the late Drew and Marjorie Morris. The purpose and legacy of the Morris’s is to make grants in support of charitable, scientific and educational nonprofit organizations. Its mission is to make meaningful and measurable positive improvements in the quality of life for communities, with a focus on the Finger Lakes Region.

“These special endowment donors cared immensely about the RPO and were passionately interested in our mission,” said RPO Vice President of Development Robert Dermody. “Gifts to the RPO Endowment act as the connective tissue that will help ensure that future generations of Rochesterians will experience both the traditional aspects of the RPO and also enhance our full range of services to meet the needs of the community.”

The purpose and tradition of the Endowed Chair Program is to attract and retain distinguished musicians to the RPO. The program offers the contributor, whether individual or family, foundation or corporation, the opportunity to endow a named chair that reflects their particular interest.

“As we enter our 98th season, continuing to grow the endowment is the cornerstone of our coming Centennial Celebration Campaign,” Dermody said. “Through growth of the endowment, your RPO will have the foundation and flexibility to do even more for the Greater Rochester community and be able to fully realize the potential of the orchestra’s next 100 years.”

The RPO was founded in 1922 by George Eastman.

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RPO receives $100,000 grant to perform for dementia patients

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has received a $100,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support free arts programming for individuals with dementia and their caregivers.

The grant was awarded through the foundation’s Public Affairs initiative and will support a pilot care and wellness program for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and their care partners. The grant also supports training for the musicians who will work with the individuals.

The 18-month project will encompass 10 ensemble visits to care facilities and 10 open rehearsals through December 2022. Ensemble visits of trios, quartets and quintets will bring RPO musicians out of the concert hall and into senior homes, hospitals and specialized memory care facilities, allowing for more intimate connection in a comfortable environment for the patients and their caregivers.

Open rehearsals will enable individuals with neurodegenerative diseases to enjoy live orchestral music at Kodak Hall. The daytime events will be stress-free for the patients.

The grant allows the RPO to build upon previous efforts and create a regular, expanded slate of accessible programming, officials said. Following the pilot program, the orchestra hopes to expand the initiative to include a broader range of conditions.

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RPO selects new music director

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has appointed Maestro Andreas Delfs as its 13th music director in the organization’s 98-year history.

Andreas Delfs
Andreas Delfs

A native of Flensburg, Germany, and graduate of the Hamburg Conservatory and Juilliard School of Music, Delfs has earned a reputation as one of the most respected conductors in the orchestra world. He has held chief artistic posts with orchestras in Europe and North America.

At the age of 20, he became the youngest-ever music director of the Hamburg University Orchestra and musical assistant at the Hamburg State Opera. Throughout his 12 seasons as musical director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Delfs drew larger audiences to Uihlein Hall, selling out a record 40 concerts there during the 2000-2001 season. Delfs led the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra as music director from 2001 to 2004 and artistic consultant from 2004 to 2006.

“I have been in love with this remarkable orchestra for a long time. Every visit I have paid to my friends in this wonderful community has been a profound and rewarding musical experience. The prospect of leading this exceptional group of musicians into their next century is not only filling me with joy and gratitude, it is truly inspiring me to pull out all the stops at my creative and musical disposal,” Delfs said. “My goal has always been to position the orchestras entrusted to me soundly and solidly in their communities. I will work tirelessly with the outstanding musicians of the RPO to anchor their vibrant presence so deeply into the greater Rochester community that nobody will be able to imagine life without them. I look forward to leading your fabulous RPO in reaching out far beyond the walls of beautiful Kodak Hall to be a beacon bringing joy and inspiration to everybody.”

Over the last 25 years, Delfs has been a frequent guest conductor with the RPO and has a strong affinity with the organization. It is this established rapport that makes him a favorite collaborator with the orchestra, officials said.

“The musicians of the RPO are thrilled with the appointment of our new Music Director Andreas Delfs. Working with him as a guest conductor over the years, the orchestra has already formed a special relationship with Maestro Delfs with many memorable performances,” said RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde. “As we approach our centennial season, we are excited to have his artistic leadership as the guiding light for our great orchestra. Andreas comes to us with a storied career, nationally and internationally, and our community will benefit greatly from his selfless musicianship, palpable artistry and tireless advocacy for the arts. What a wonderful chapter for the RPO as we look to the future.”

Delfs is well known for delivering electrifying performances and artistic excellence. He is equally passionate about supporting young musicians and building deep community relationships. He dedicates a substantial part of his time to share his knowledge with young instrumentalists and conductors, at Boyer College and in international Masterclasses. During his tenure as music director at the RPO he plans to foster new local talent by making music and musical training available to children in the city of Rochester, regardless of their ability to pay for lessons or purchase instruments.

“We need to create access to great music for everybody in our communities and shape our orchestras to be regarded as welcoming, inclusive and diverse by all,” Delfs said.

As music director of the RPO, Delfs’ leadership will include oversight of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and partnering with the philharmonic’s management on artistic planning, programming and music education activities.

“When we began our search for a music director to lead the RPO through our centennial season and into our second century, it was our priority to find someone who would build on a legacy of artistic excellence by leading powerful and inspired performances that will thrill Rochester audiences for years to come, and also bring creative ideas about how we connect with and stay relevant to our changing community,” said RPO President and CEO Curtis Long. “We found that person in Andreas Delfs.”

Delfs joins the RPO at an unprecedented time in its history. For the last year, the orchestra has navigated the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting streaming concerts and connecting with audiences around the globe, virtually.

“Unlike other orchestras, which were forced to close during the pandemic, the RPO has explored new technology to remain a relevant and visible cultural entity in our community,” said Ross Lanzafame, chairman of the RPO’s board of directors. “We look forward to working with Andreas to build and expand upon this foundation, moving into our next century incorporating technology to forge new and innovative connections with our community.”

The RPO’s season sponsors include M & T Bank and Rochester Regional Health. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will announce its 2021-2022 season programming next week. The season, crafted by Delfs and Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik, will be one of the most diverse in the history of the RPO, officials said, featuring compositions and artists from all over the globe, including beloved classics as well as world premieres.

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