After a two-year search process, Ross will take over as the ASO’s fifth music director.
When Kim Allen Kluge stepped away as Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s music director in June 2016, ASO’s Board of Trustees were already in the process of what would become a two-year, international search to replace him. But in the meantime, the show went on.
James Ross, a professor and director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Maryland since 2001, was familiar with ASO by reputation and was invited to serve as a guest conductor in the fall of 2016. Little did anybody know, this guest performance would turn into a permanent one.
Ross, who also is the orchestra director of the National Youth Orchestra–USA at Carnegie Hall, is on the conducting faculty at the Juilliard School and the music director of Orquesta Simfonica del Valles in Barcelona, has been named ASO’s fifth music director and will lead the orchestra as it heads into its 75th anniversary season.
“I threw my hat in the ring for Alexandria based on the quality of my experience leading them in October 2016,” says Ross. “I wanted to see if I could take what I’d learned in all my other spheres and translate it into vitality for this specific orchestra connecting to and for the community of Alexandria.”
On April 5, 2017, out of 170 applicants, ASO announced Ross and three others had been selected as the final four and would continue their search by conducting concerts during the 2017-2018 season and all that goes with those performances. This “intense” audition, as Ross described, included programming the concert, conducting rehearsals, meeting and engaging with the Board of Trustees and community, and of course, the performance itself.
“There was a natural kind of pressure … not so much to succeed in the process, but to make sure that everyone around the ASO ended up feeling like they knew who I was and how I think so that they could make the right decision for their situation,” says Ross.
Now that he has earned the position, which Ross says he is happy will keep him in the area that has been home for the last 17 years while also allowing the Maryland resident to better explore Alexandria and Northern Virginia, the work on putting together his 2018-2019 season is underway.
“That process involves spreading a wide net and coming up with something that we can all be collectively proud of; that celebrates both the 75-year history of this great organization and points to a future toward which I hope to lead them,” he says.’s 75th anniversary season will begin in September.