The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra announced yesterday it will welcome a new music director to lead the performing arts organization into its 58th season. After Philip Mann’s departure and four years of searching through a pandemic, the appointed is none other than the symphony’s artistic director and 15-year ASO veteran Geoffrey Robson.
“Geoff has become a remarkable conductor and leader. From his concerts with Midori, Gil Shaham and most recently Zuill Bailey, Geoff has proven himself as the artist, musician and leader this orchestra wants to follow into its future success,” ASO CEO Christina Littlejohn says. “His deep love of music and people set him apart. Whether conducting symphonic repertoire or playing bluegrass, folk or Florence Price, he brings joy and a sense of wonder to every performance.”
Robson played an instrumental role as artistic director by implementing innovative programs that helped the organization progress and adapt to the digital demand. His program Bedtime with Bach garnered national praise and was featured in The Washington Post and on "The Kelly Clarkson Show."
Reportedly demonstrating artistic, flexible and creative strengths with a humorous spirit, Robson’s leadership style allowed symphonic musicians to safely continue their service and passion. The successful transition combined with the support of the community allowed ASO’s full-time musicians and staff to continue employment throughout 2020–2021, even when art organizations everywhere suffered.
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“It is the honor of a lifetime to be chosen to chart the path forward as the next music director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, made extraordinary as I was chosen by a group of musicians, most of whom I have known for years,” Robson says. “During these years, the passion for the music shown by the players, the presence of brilliant creative partners in the orchestra and around the community and a common desire to grow as artists has kept me rooted here, inspired to have the greatest positive impact that I can.
“The ASO is a marvelous organization made possible by this Arkansas community. Every single person I work with has a steadfast dedication to making beautiful music available to all. Thus, the ASO is inseparable from the community it serves. This gives us our purpose, relevance and visibility.”
The announcement came at a pivotal time for ASO as it prepares to break ground on the new state-of-the-art Stella Boyle Smith Music Center located in the East Village neighborhood. One of Robson’s first priorities as music director will be to oversee the construction and move to the new 18,500-square-foot facility, which will include a performance hall, practice spaces, classrooms, a recording and streaming studio and more.
Mark your calendars for Robson’s debut performance of Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” and Florence Price’s "Violin Concerto No. 2" with violinist Jennifer Frautschi on Sep. 30 and Oct. 1 at the Robinson Center.