The New York Youth Symphony has appointed Joshua Gersen to be its next music director, succeeding Ryan McAdams, who is leaving after five years in the job to focus on his guest conducting activities.
A native of Connecticut, Gersen will conduct the ensemble that consists of student musicians ranging in age from 12 to 22 and which performs a regular season at Carnegie Hall as well at the Kupferberg Center in Queens. The position has previously been held by several notable conductors during the early stages in their careers, including Leonard Slatkin, David Alan Miller and Miguel Harth-Bedoya.
"One of the hardest things about being a young conductor is strictly finding opportunities to conduct and to conduct regularly," said Gersen, in a phone interview. "It’s a great opportunity to get in front of a group every week and work with them and grow with them."
Gersen, 27, is a conducting fellow of the New World Symphony in Miami, where he works as an assistant to its music director Michael Tilson Thomas. Born in Morristown, NJ and raised in Monroe, CT, Gersen made his conducting debut at the tender age of 11 with the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra. He studied composition and conducting at the Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory, and last summer attended the Aspen Music Festival, where he won the 2011 Aspen Conducting Prize and the Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize.
Gersen formally takes over at the NYYS in September 2012 while he continues to work with the New World Symphony. With the NYYS, he hopes to introduce large-scale pieces that aren't part of his regular conducting diet. "They’ve programmed some incredibly challenging pieces – Ein Heldenleben, the Tchaikovsky Sixth and Bartok Concert for Orchestra," he said. "That leads me to believe that the potential is there to play anything available to us. The challenge for me is to find pieces in which we can really learn to play together as an ensemble and grow together – that I can get to know them and they can get to know me."
Founded in 1963, the New York Youth Symphony also runs chamber music, jazz, composition and conducting programs, and for 25 consecutive seasons, it has introduced a commissioned work on each program. Members of the orchestra’s programs are selected through annual auditions, which Gersen will help oversee.
Gersen is the Youth Symphony’s 16th music director. Robbi Kearns, the orchestra's director of artistic operations, said that music directors are signed on for one-year contracts but typically they hold the post for five years before moving on. Among Gersen's first tasks will be helping to program the NYSS's 50th anniversary season.
Below: Joshua Gersen on commissioning new works