LIMA — Lima Symphony Orchestra’s newest conductor was named Thursday afternoon, and it’s clear he has some big plans for the symphony.
Andrew Crust, who conducted February’s “Mad Love” program, was announced the winner of 2019-2020’s “Focus Forward” conductor search to replace longtime leader Crafton Beck next season.
Whittled down from a total of 187 applicants beginning in 2018, Crust became the clear-cut winner, according to Elizabeth Brown-Ellis, executive director for the symphony.
“As people came into the community, they kept coming up and saying they’re all so amazing and asking how we were going to make the decision. In some ways, it was very tough, but in other ways, it wasn’t,” she said. “We started looking through the surveys of about 300 online voters, and Andrew just rose to the top. It was very clear that he really understood our culture, that he related well with the community members and that he was going to be a really extraordinary choice for us.
“Then, we went one step further and pulled the musicians and asked, if they had to pick today, please rank the candidates we’ve worked with, and he was absolutely at the top of the list,” Brown-Ellis added. “We were very confident at that point that we’d found somebody who just was the fit. All of them are talented, but there’s that chemistry, and if you don’t have that chemistry with the orchestra, then it won’t be a success.”
From there, the 12-person selection committee unanimously recommended Crust to the board for approval.
Crust matches that excitement to join the Lima community.
“I felt, in general, the city was very welcoming. People know each other very well and support each other. There was so much excitement,” he said. “That’s one of the many reasons I wanted to join was the palatable excitement I could feel while I was there.”
While doing his rounds in the community, as all finalists did, Brown-Ellis said one of the things that stood out about Crust was his “real genuineness and desire to understand who we are.”
“He didn’t grow up in a musical family, so he had to discover music on his own. He has that real appreciation for people who maybe haven’t grown up with classical music. He’s good at demystifying and breaking down classical music,” Brown-Ellis said. “You’re not going to be able to thrive in a community and serve our community unless it has that same love of music and appreciation. It’s about figuring out how to make more people realize how great it is, how fun it can be.”
Both the symphony and Crust’s goals are perfectly aligned. It’s all about reaching as many people as possible with music.
“I want to focus on expanding access and broadening concert-goers, not because we want to sell more tickets but because we want to have a fantastic season full of meaningful, powerful music,” Crust said. “My goal in terms of programming would be to program a healthy dose of the great classics, the established masterworks but also highlight composers that have been neglected throughout history, whether it’s because of their race, gender or political situation. I want to share with the audience some lesser-known works I’m certain they’re going to love.”
That kind of programming approach has proven successful for the symphony. According to Brown-Ellis, there has been a 52% increase in single-season tickets in the last two seasons.
“I’m excited for this burst of creativity and this new breath,” she said. “We have such a wonderful tradition, but we are now moving beyond that traditional Western canon the orchestra typically plays. We internally have done so much with community outreach and accessibility, so I’m excited to see the programming really reflect that.”
Now that his position has been secured on the podium, Crust and the programming committee have already begun mapping out the 2020-2021 season.
“I really believe in listening to all of my colleagues because I’m new in Lima. I’m not the expert on what this community really wants to hear, but I do feel I can bring some pieces that have never been played before,” Crust said. “It’s all about balancing the season. You have to in 2020 really consider female composers, composers of color and living composers. You can’t just do Beethoven all the time, as much as we all love them. We need music that represents our country at the time with meaningful themes and pieces to resonate with the modern-day audience.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.