The Texarkana Symphony Orchestra named Philip Mann as its new music director and principal conductor Tuesday at a Perot Theatre press conference.
Mann will conduct the TSO musicians at the season-opening concert Oct. 5. He's signed an initial three-year contract to start his duties June 1. Plans call to have Mann in residence for seven weeks out of the year.
Mann's experience includes guest conductor appearances all over the world with symphony orchestras, operas and music festivals. A Rhodes Scholar to Oxford University, he holds degrees from Arizona State University, Indiana University and the University of Sydney, Sydney Conservatory.
He'd been serving as music director for the Arkansas Symphony, a post he'll complete in June, and he now holds the position of director of orchestral studies at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where he lives with his wife.
A Colorado native, he's also served as assistant conductor for performances with the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra overseas, and Cleveland Orchestra stateside.
Now Mann comes to Texarkana, where he guest conducted back in March 2018 for a night of masterworks. That night, he sensed a similar approach to music.
"This is a community that clearly loves music and to work in the historic Perot Theatre is something I'm thrilled about, but really it starts and ends with the music and musicians for me," Mann said about his excitement at being here. "The foundational relationship with musicians makes everything they do possible.
"The quality of the musicians and the quality of the music determine what's going to be possible on stage, and with the Texarkana Symphony they've really invested in the highest quality musicians and the highest quality music," Mann said, adding that for a conductor this is a place where a difference can be made.
Growing up on a rural ranch in Colorado, he said, he later found himself living and working in places like London and New York City.
"And I think what it's told me is that I can be happy anywhere when you've got a receptive audience and a great group of musicians to work with," Mann said.
The spark that got him interested in classical music came from his family, seeing his parents and his brother perform, and knowing music would always be part of his life.
"To translate it here to Texarkana I think will be very easy because this is a community that clearly already loves music but also is open to the opportunity to re-fall in love with music," Mann said.
He sees it in the eyes of musicians, the TSO, and the audience he met at his guest conductor show.
As to programming, expect to see both masterworks and pops concerts, a mix. He likens his role to that of a chef at a fusion restaurant, combining what's familiar with more exotic fare, he said.
"To allow you to hear and experience the familiar and beloved in new ways," Mann said.
TSO Executive Director Andrew Clark and Don Howren, TSO board president, made the announcement in front of the Perot, where the new maestro will lead TSO players for many concerts. The announcement follows a 14-month search process.
"We sought from the beginning to seek someone who could broaden the orchestra's artistic promise, expand the performance repertoire and engage Texarkana's very diverse audience in new and creative ways," Clark said. "And we believe that we have definitely found that person."
Clark described Mann as distinguished in the conducting world, someone known internationally, and the right person to take the TSO to the next place — both musically and artistically.
Mann succeeds Marc-André Bougie, one of the TSO's co-founders, in the positions of music director and conductor.
"The search committee was made up of board members, community leaders and some of the symphony members themselves," Howren said.
Originally, the TSO intended to devote two years to find a successor, but the process didn't take that long. The final selection was made from five top candidates who were interviewed. This past year, guest conductors led the TSO during its 2018-2019 concert season.
Mann acknowledged the contributions of his predecessor and thanked Bougie for "his extraordinary contribution to this community and this wonderful organization." Mann also remarked upon the strong chemistry he felt with these musicians while guest conducting last year.
"I'm thrilled to be here, and I knew that from the very beginning in the spring of 2018 that there was something special possible here," Mann said.
An announcement about the TSO's upcoming 2019-20 lineup is forthcoming.
(On the Net: TexarkanaSymphony.org.)