Almost a year and a half ago, the Lake Forest Symphony (LFS) set out to find themselves a new music director. Out of 150 applicants, they narrowed the search down to five conductors from all over the world. In a very hands-on audition process, the selection committee explored who would make the best fit with the musicians, the audience, and the administration of the LFS.
“The search committee was made up of three people from the (LFS) board, all with their own different experiences in the community; three people from the musicians, elected by the musicians—45 votes at the time; and then three people from the community, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, the head of the Symphony Guild, and the conductor of an area church choir who recently got his Ph.D. in conducting from Northwestern,” says Dick Morehead, chair of the search committee. “We really had a blending of interests with people willing to devote their time to the search.”
After months of conversations and wonderful music, they’ve finally announced 34-year-old Vladimir Kulenovic as the new music director of the LFS.
“I think we’re a perfect match,” says Vladimir. “Really from the very first introduction, I had a sense of already starting to build something, from day one. Lake Forest is an incredibly fertile ground for growth. For the Lake Forest Symphony, there’s incredible potential for artistic development because of the high level of musicians and the potential for expanded support for the community. I’m very honored to be a part of this potential—giving artistic direction that will embody itself in very meaningful contributions in the lives of every single individual of the community at large.”
Vladimir began his music education at the age of 5, dedicating himself to studying the piano. After leaving Belgrade, Yugoslavia at age 12, he continued pursuing music in the states at Boston Conservatory, the Peabody Institute, and The Juilliard School. At 21, he turned his attention to conducting, and 13 years later, he now serves as a lauded music director all over the world. Last year, he was the principal conductor of the Kyoto International Music Students Festival in Japan, and in conjunction with his first year as music director of the LFS, he’ll be concluding a term as the associate conductor of the Utah Symphony and continuing on as the resident conductor of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra.
“The job of a music director has changed a lot in recent years,” says Susan Lape, executive director of the Lake Forest Symphony. “Now the job requires them to not only be exceptional on the podium, but they have to be really great out in the community to get people excited about what we do, especially children and people without access to music. We knew the conductor that we wanted was someone who was committed to that. Vladimir definitely is. He loves working with youth and people in communities that might not have had regular access to classical music and bringing it to them in an accessible and exciting way.”
Vladimir’s commitment to musical education is evidenced in the strides he made with the Utah Symphony’s educational outreach over his last four years with them, fostering so many different opportunities and avenues for people to engage with symphonic and operatic music. That particular talent also drew the eye of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), and in the spring of 2015, Vladimir will conduct a series of educational family concerts downtown.
“We can do the same in Lake Forest,” he says. “That’s something I’m passionate about. We have grand expansion plans for the LFS season, the audience base, the level of support, outreach, and impact, but it will all be focused on contribution to the community. This is a beautiful place to live. Everybody that I meet here, whether they’re connected to the symphony or just in a coffee shop, has such a relaxed, warm, welcoming, confident attitude. You really feel like you’re at home. There’s also a high level of sophistication here. It’s just great to be a part of it.”
For more information on the Lake Forest Symphony, visit them online at lakeforestsymphony.org.
– Jake Jarvi // Photogrpahy by Jim Prisching