Federal Way Symphony welcomes new conductor

Adam Stern, a Grammy-winning recording producer, will conduct the symphony’s 2020-2021 virtual season beginning this month.

The Federal Way Symphony has engaged long-time Pacific Northwest conductor Adam Stern to lead the organization through its 2020-21 season. In light of the coronavirus global pandemic, the season will begin with a series of “virtual” performances in November and December.

Following the retirement of founding Artistic Director Brian Davenport, the Symphony created a committee of board members, donors and musicians to search for a new conductor. “Brian left big shoes to fill,” said board president, Jennie G. Hendrie.

“We wanted to ensure that all stakeholders were involved in the search for his successor.” Stern quickly emerged as the top choice among all committee members. “Adam has a depth of experience and musical interests that have long enriched the Pacific Northwest. The orchestra is fortunate to have him on board,” said Mannfried Funk, committee member and Symphony principal cello.

Born in Southern California, Stern grew up knowing music was his calling and received his MFA in conducting from the California Institute for the Arts at age 21 — the youngest in that college’s history. He came to the Pacific Northwest in 1992 and has served as Assistant and Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony and Music Director of the Port Angeles Symphony and the Northwest Chamber Orchestra. ​An award-winning recording producer, Stern earned a Grammy as Classical Producer of the Year, principally for his recordings with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony. He currently serves as Music Director of the Seattle Philharmonic and the Sammamish Symphony.

“I am thrilled to take on this new challenge,” Stern said, “to continue my growth as an artist while sharing my worship and knowledge of music with our orchestra and audience. Music has been my love, companion, and calling since early childhood, and I hope that my passion will inspire the orchestra to surpass what they think are their present capabilities.”

Stern, known as a devotee of unjustly neglected works and an ardent propagandist for English music, has premiered works by relatively unknown composers as well as lesser-known works by more famous musicians. “I hope to surprise our audiences with beautiful and deserving literature that they don’t already know, while still honoring the ‘classical’ repertoire,” he said.

The Symphony will open its 2020-21 season “virtually” with a series of free online pieces programmed and conducted by Stern and professionally produced and directed.

“We are grateful to ArtsFund, 4Culture and the City of Federal Way for their continuing support during this crisis,” Hendrie said. “Their funding will allow us to produce a high-quality experience for our audience.”

Music for the series will range from the Baroque era to Mozart to traditional holiday music and will be performed and recorded by small groups of musicians observing appropriate safety measures. “The health and safety of our musicians is our highest priority,” Hendrie said.

The concerts were conceived by Stern as two pairs: one set of compositions from the traditional classical repertoire, and the other celebrating the holiday season. “The first set offers sparkling works by Mozart and Rossini,” Stern explained. “I thought that two pieces that stressed charm and humor might be particularly welcome at this time. Mozart’s ‘Musical Joke’ is a glorious exercise in deliberate rule-breaking, and Rossini’s String Sonata No. 1 — written when the composer was but twelve years old—already displays Rossini’s ever-present whimsy and good spirits.”

The holiday pair of virtual concerts will spotlight Christmas compositions by the French masters Michel Richard De Lalande and Francois-Joseph Gossec, and a medley of Christmas songs, carols, and spirituals expertly arranged by Willam Ryden.

Additional information on the Symphony and the upcoming concert series will be posted on the Federal Way Symphony website and Facebook page.