Christopher Wilkins, the well-regarded music director of the Akron Symphony orchestra since 2006, has signed up for another 3-year tour of duty, through 2012.
Wilkins says he’s "thrilled" — as are concertgoers. Under his direction, the orchestra has drawn critical accolades, including a review from Daniel Hathaway of Cleveland Classical for their early May performance of the Brahms German Requiem with the Akron Symphony Chorus and soloists.
The Thomas Hall podium, however, comes with a thinner pay envelope this time round. Wilkins calls his ten percent salary reduction part of the "new reality" in the difficult times facing arts organizations everywhere. Indeed, according to board president Thomas J. Clark, it’s part of an across-the-board $400,000 budget trimming effort. Clark says that "everyone, from the music director, to the musicians, to the office operations, has shared in these cuts."
The upcoming season’s classical series shows little evidence of the belt-tightening. The September season opener includes Canadian-born pianist Philip Thomson performing the Grieg concerto. Benjamin Zander, who led the Akron Symphony Orchestra and Chorus’s memorable performance of Mahler’s "Resurrection" Symphony in early 2008, will return in March 2010 to guest-conduct the Mahler Ninth. Expect an all-Mozart program in January and Carl Orff’s bang-up "scenic cantata" Carmina Burana in May. Three vocal soloists will appear in a November opera gala. The February concert will include a concerto for steelpan (steel drum) by Illinois-born composer Jan Bach. Other symphonic repertoire on the list includes Beethoven’s Third and the Sibelius Second.