Scott Freck  

Modeling the Ideal:
Constructing a Music Director Profile

Scott Freck
April 10, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

Ever wonder how to define your perfect Music Director candidate?

Scott Freck, General Manager of the North Carolina Symphony, has lots of suggestions for doing just that. He passes along a warning from a colleague about avoiding "Anti-Last-Guy Syndrome," and gives detailed advice about how to construct a survey that identifies what you want in your Music Director. The survey enabled them to define three categories of traits: the "Must Haves," the "Would Very Much Like to Have," and the "Not a Top Priority" items.

He then goes on to describe the research their Search committee did on the top candidates - all excellent advice if your orchestra is embarking on a Music Director search.

- Ann Drinan

A friend and colleague working at another orchestra gave me a great piece of advice at the very start of the North Carolina Symphony’s search to find a successor to Gerhardt Zimmermann as its Music Director in 2001. He warned me to beware what he called the “Anti-Last-Guy Syndrome.” It wasn’t inherently a criticism of – or tribute to – the outgoing conductor’s characteristics. He just said it was natural for an orchestra (meaning its musicians, managers, and trustees) to want to try a different, even opposite, direction from what had come before.

The heart of his advice was this: take the time to assess what the real needs of the institution are, both present and future. What kind of musician would bring out the best in the players? What off-the-podium qualities would inspire Board, staff, and community to do their utmost to aid the orchestra’s growth? How will the organization know when it has found just the right conductor for the job?

It was great advice. When our Search Committee of eight – divided evenly between four musicians of the orchestra and four members of the management and Board – set out on the journey that would eventually end 33 months later with the appointment of Grant Llewellyn as the orchestra’s fifth Music Director, the first thing we did was determine what qualities our ideal conductor would possess. We developed a profile or template against which all of our potential candidates could be measured. Looking back on the process, two years after the announcement of his hiring and a season-and-a-half into his tenure, I’m struck by how nearly perfectly Grant Llewellyn-shaped that original template was. We ended up with exactly whom we set out to find.

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