New Long Beach Symphony Director Chosen

Times Music Writer

JoAnn Falletta has been named the new music director of the Long Beach Symphony.

The 35-year-old conductor, a native New Yorker who will soon hold three degrees from the Juilliard School, was chosen over four other candidates for the post, vacated last year when Murry Sidlin’s contract was not renewed by the orchestra’s board of directors. Each of the five contenders--including Paul Polivnick, Kenneth Kiesler, David Alan Miller and Jon Robertson--led a Long Beach Symphony concert during the 1988-89 season.

Falletta signed a two-year contract with the symphony association on Sunday night. The contract stipulates that the new music director will spend 100 days, or half her professional time, with the orchestra each season.


The conductor already leads the Queens Philharmonic in New York--an orchestra she founded nine years ago--the Denver Chamber Orchestra and the Bay Area Women’s Philharmonic. Thus, in the season 1989-90, she will hold four concurrent music directorships.

In accepting the post, Falletta becomes one in an elite group of women who hold primary conducting jobs.

Reached Monday at the Denver Chamber Orchestra office, Falletta acknowledged that “this is a big, big step for all women on the career path to being a conductor,” adding that, though no woman holds a primary conducting post with a major American orchestra, Falletta becomes the second woman to head a regional orchestra; the other is Catherine Comet, the French-born music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony. (The Michigan orchestra has a budget of $2.6 million; the Long Beach ensemble one of around $1.5 million)

“The symphonic world is so rigid and conservative,” Falletta observed, “These kinds of changes can come only from inside. Women conductors, like all conductors, have to serve a long apprenticeship, and move up slowly. But, things are changing.”

A former classical guitarist who also plays cello and piano, Falletta said she maintains a home in New York--with her husband, a computer scientist--and an apartment in Denver, and commutes to San Francisco three times a year for her work with the Bay Area Women’s Symphony.

In 1989-90, Falletta will conduct five of the Long Beach Symphony’s six subscription concerts in the Terrace Theatre at the Long Beach Convention Center (and will choose the guest conductor on the other one), will lead one of three scheduled pops concerts and preside over all of the youth and education programs given by the 54-year old orchestra.