Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Orchestra director announces departure

  • By
  • | 5:00 a.m. February 14, 2011
"He has embraced music in this community with great gusto," says board vice chair Anne Folsom Smith of maestro Leif Bjaland.
"He has embraced music in this community with great gusto," says board vice chair Anne Folsom Smith of maestro Leif Bjaland.
  • Arts + Culture
  • Share

The Sarasota Orchestra will bid farewell to artistic director Leif Bjaland next season.

The longtime conductor announced today that he would not renew his three-year contract with the organization.

Next season, which marks Bjaland’s 15th year with the orchestra, will be the maestro’s last.

The organization will prepare for the transition by inviting guest conductors to help lead the 2011-2012 season. Bjaland, who joined the orchestra in 1997, will remain at the helm for most of next season’s Masterworks concerts.

The organization’s board of directors will soon appoint an executive search committee, one-third of which will include orchestra musicians.

According to Anne Folsom Smith, vice chair of the orchestra board, the search process will not commence until 2012.

"Next season is not a search season," Folsom Smith says. "I think the orchestra will find it fun and challenging to mix it up a little. I don't think the musicians will falter one iota."

Bjaland’s departure did not come as a surprise to board members. The maestro revealed in October that he planned to audition for music director of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.

“It was an indication that he would like to change,” Folsom Smith says. “It’s not unusual that this would occur. A lot of conductors wouldn’t stay at one job for 14 years as Leif has done. We were all feeling the pangs of his wanting to go in a different direction. We had to think this was coming.”

Although the Colorado Springs Philharmonic has not hired its next music director, Bjaland is among five finalists selected for the job.

In his Feb. 12 resignation letter, Bjaland expressed his gratitude to former Sarasota Orchestra artistic director Paul Wolfe and commended the organization for its exceptional musicians and dedicated staff.

Under Bjaland’s tenure, the orchestra enjoyed frequent collaborations with local arts organizations, performed several new commissions by contemporary composers and launched innovative multimedia programming to attract newer and younger audiences.

“It has been an honor to serve as artistic director,” Bjaland says. “Perpetuating the role and excellence of orchestral music for our community and our youth is only possible with your support. I know that I speak for all my colleagues when I ask you to provide your continued support to an organization that means so much to all of us.”