Voices of the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra: New music director to make his debut in October



Yaniv Attar will make his public performance debut as the new music director of the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra in an Oct. 6 concert at Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham.


Maestro Yaniv Attar, selected after an intensive international search, takes the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra podium this 2013-14 season.

After working with three candidates, each conducting rehearsals and a performance, orchestra members still were uncertain who among the four candidates we would most want to invite into our community. Each had a doctorate degree and extensive experience conducting around the world, and each concert was an exhilarating growth experience for individuals and for the WSO as a whole.

Audience members too were excited by the new performance level they were hearing with each concert and the opportunity to offer input.

"It was a real thrill to be included as an audience member in the conductor search process. Being able to see their 'live audition,' meet with them at the reception afterwards, and eventually be asked to comment on my favorite made me feel included and my opinion valued," said Karen Berry, Bellingham Festival of Music board member.

At the first rehearsal with Attar, it was apparent that his conducting skills matched or surpassed those of our previous three candidates, but it was after the break when we all took our seats that we got a glimpse of the personality that would win our hearts. He smiled and said, "Thank you for coming back!" This was quickly followed by "Thank YOU for staying," from Concertmaster Grant Donnellan.

Clearly we were working with someone with a sense of humor who was relaxed, engaging and caring, yet who had the focus and knowledge to bring out the best in each of us and shape the sound of the entire group. Although on the edge of our chairs working to do our best, rehearsals were fun and we could feel the transformation from reading notes to playing music.

In the end, when input from orchestra members and our audience was sought by the search committee, Attar was the clear choice. The audience loved not only the music he brought them but his engaging manner when explaining the music before we played. This is a man for whom the music is what is important, not the maestro. He is eager to engage with the community and is looking forward to meeting with service groups and working with children in addition to his duties as music director.

Tim Douglas, former mayor of Bellingham and search committee member, said, "It was a treat representing the community in our search for a new WSO music director. What a superb talent pool the orchestra attracted! Every candidate was struck by both the commitment and quality performance they found in our orchestra members. WSO is going to have some great seasons ahead with Yaniv Attar on the podium!"

Yaniv, his wife Meredith, and their 3-year-old-son Jonah have moved to Bellingham from Birmingham, Ala. ("From one 'ham to another," says Meredith.) He recently completed his two-year residency as the assistant conductor of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, conducting nearly 100 performances.

Attar "looks forward to wonderful music-making with WSO in years to come. I want to continue raising the level of the orchestra and, most importantly, to build its sound. This is a group of musicians who play with 150 percent dedication and passion. Believe it or not, this is not something to take for granted in the 'business of music.' When music comes before business, you get an amazing result."

He continues, "Last season was challenging for the WSO, mainly because the musicians played with six different conductors. It is not easy to adapt to so many styles of conducting, and the responsiveness from the players and the ability to be flexible was very impressive. For me, the most important aspect was that I was able to affect and change the sound of the orchestra. I felt that over the rehearsal period, the orchestra and I formed a bond that allowed us to make music in a very inspiring and convincing way, and I believe we were able to communicate that to the audience. You can not ask for more as a conductor!"

Finally, "The WSO is a jewel in Bellingham and it's an honor for me to be part of it. This is a wonderful city, and my family and I are thrilled to call Bellingham home."

Join us for Attar's debut with the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6. For information call the WSO office at 360-756-6752 or visit whatcomsymphony.com.

Season and individual tickets are available at the Mt. Baker Theatre box office, 360-734-6080.


Window On My World is an occasional essay in Monday's Bellingham Herald that allows Whatcom County residents to share their passion for what they do, an idea or cause they support. Send your Window On My World, which must be no more than 700 words, to julie.shirley@bellinghamherald.com.

This is one of a yearlong series profiling the musicians of the award-winning Whatcom Symphony Orchestra. Author Mary Passmore has played cello with the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra for 33 years and currently serves on the board of directors and as chair of the Outreach to the Schools committee. A retired elementary classroom teacher, she plays chamber music with friends, seeks adventure through travel with her husband Martin, and visits her children and grandchild in Los Angeles as often as possible.

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