Giancarlo Guerrero will become the Nashville Symphony Orchestra's music director starting in 2009, orchestra officials announced last week. The 38-year-old Costa Rican-American and current music director of the Eugene Symphony replaces the late Kenneth Schermerhorn, who led the Nashville Symphony for 22 years. The initial term of Guerrero's contract is five years, through the 2013-14 season.
"I can't think of anybody better on the planet for this job," orchestra president and CEO Alan Valentine told The Tennessean. "He's got a great sense of humor, a great disposition and outlook on life. His enthusiasm is contagious, and I think that will infect not only the orchestra and staff, but also the community."
The magnetic Guerrero was the first to conduct the orchestra after Schermerhorn's death. "When I first got here everybody was very sad and depressed," he told John Pitcher of the Nashville Scene. "That was a tough week, but I told everybody that the best way for us to get through this was to make the concert a celebration of Kenneth's life. By the end of the week the musicians and I had developed a lot of chemistry."
Guerrero had always received the highest remarks from musicians for his four previous engagements with the orchestra over last two years, and so was an easy choice for the search committee. "This was as unanimous a decision as I've ever seen," The Tennessean reported Mark Wait, committee head and dean of Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music, as saying.
Born in Nicaragua and raised in Costa Rica, Guerrero received a bachelor's degree in percussion from Baylor University in Texas and a master's degree in conducting from Northwestern University. Previously the Minnesota Orchestra's associate conductor from 1999 to 2004, he has guest conducted the Baltimore Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra, among other major U.S. orchestras. He made his European debut with the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon and his UK debut with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
"Sometimes people are afraid of coming to concerts because they may feel they don't understand much about classical music," said Guerrero. "So, as music director, my job is trying to make sure Schermerhorn Symphony Center doesn't feel like it's only for a certain type of person. It is for everybody."
Leornard Slatkin will remain the orchestra's music adviser through the 2008-09 season.