The search for Dennis Simons' replacement as conductor of the Minot Symphony Orchestra is finally over, with Scott Seaton, from Kent State University in Ohio, coming to take the baton. He is slated to arrive on Friday, with his girlfriend to follow in a few months.
"We had well over 60 applicants, including 20 international applicants including Italians, Germans, Serbians and Greeks," said Kenneth Bowles, chair of the Minot State University music division, who also chaired the search committee for a new conductor. "We had to ask Paulette (Dailey, executive director of the MSO) to stop accepting applications, and they're still continuing to come."
The 60 were whittled down to 18 over the course of several months, then down to the top four.
"Each of them came to Minot and played the same program, with an hour and a half rehearsal," Bowles said. "We had an open meeting for symphony members and the university and community, and we were able to have a representatively full orchestra. Seaton was at the top of everyone's list, which made the decision easy. So many people in Minot have been anxiously awaiting our selection, calling and calling - it's nice to have it settled."
Luanne Erickson, Minot Symphony Orchestra president, described the process as "invigorating."
"There were some who were very well prepared, and some who had a real feel for the music they were conducting, but (Scott) stood out from the rest," she said.
Seaton's credentials are impressive, especially in light of his age. Barely into his 30s, he made his international debut in 2007 with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, and has conducted in Zurich, Mexico, Chicago, Winnipeg and Manhattan. He holds degrees from the Universite de Montreal, the New England Conservatory and the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University. He was recently announced as one of 20 finalists to compete in the International Conductors Competition Sir Georg Solti in Frankfurt in mid-September this year.
Seaton is also being engaged by MSU in the music department.
"A conductor is a teacher in some senses," Seaton said. "He must be a good communicator. Initially I'll be teaching some music appreciation courses."
Seaton doesn't want to name a theme for the upcoming MSO season, although he has a general idea of what he wants.
"I suppose 'A New Era,' or something to that effect," he said. "I want to be able to secure the best soloists for the repertoire. My whole philosophy is (that) it's all about the music. I want to learn the strengths and weaknesses (of the musicians) and make it the best orchestra in the area. I'm looking to present them with challenges they may not have faced - for example, I don't see Mahler in any past seasons."
For an answer to a simple question for one with such an active career, "Why Minot?"
"It seemed like a great opportunity to work with a wonderful orchestra in an area that seems to be thriving," Seaton said. "And I'm a fan of the cool weather."