Erik Rohde is the new Winona Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor.
Photo by Nicolas Propes.

New symphony conductor arrives


(7/18/2018)

by NATHANIEL NELSON

The Winona Symphony Orchestra welcomes its new music director and conductor, Erik Rohde, this week, the first new conductor in almost a decade.

Erik Rohde, a Rochester, Minn., native has been appointed the music director and conductor of the Winona Symphony Orchestra this week by the orchestra’s board of directors. He will be replacing Dr. Don Lovejoy, who served as the symphony’s director since 2009.

“Don was wonderful in creating a variety of content and programs for the orchestra, and we believe Erik will do so as well,” said Tim Hornseth, board president of the orchestra.

According to Hornseth, Lovejoy announced his retirement early in the year, and the process for finding a replacement began shortly afterward. They had quite a few applicants, Hornseth said, but Rohde was the full package.

“We had a number of very, very qualified candidates, who we had come in and do practice sessions with a group of musicians,” Hornseth explained. “It was Rohde’s podium presence, his maturity and knowledge of what it takes to be a music director in addition to conductor that impressed us. He was clearly our top choice.”

Rohde comes from years of experience with symphonies as both a violinist and conductor, having performed and conducted across the United States, Europe, and Asia. His credits include performing with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, the Quad Cities Symphony Orchestra, the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra, and his personal project, the music duo sonic apricity.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s an exciting life, and I’m excited to add Winona to that experience,” Rohde said.

Rohde holds a doctorate of musical arts in conducting from the University of Minnesota, and much like many an artist, holds degrees in both art and science, with degrees in violin performance and biomedical engineering.

“My dad was a professional engineer, but he was also a musician on the side. I went into college not knowing what I wanted to do, but halfway through my studies I realized that doing music alongside something else would never be enough. So I went all in,” Rohde explained.

While he never ended up using the biomedical engineering degree in the practical sense, he uses some of the training every day. It was great training in problem solving, Rohde said, but it might not be the kind of use that his professors expected.

In addition to the Winona Symphony, Rohde also works as an assistant professor and director of string activities and orchestra at Indiana State University as well as the artistic director and conductor for the Salomon Chamber Orchestra.

However, the Winona Symphony Orchestra is the only one of his many positions that lies in his home state. When he was young, Rohde performed in youth orchestras and choirs across Southeast Minnesota, so he’s intimately familiar with the area.

“[The position] will allow me to come back to the area I grew up, which is fantastic. It’s great to be able to reconnect to Southeast Minnesota,” Rohde beamed.

While it may seem strange that a professor from Indiana conducts an orchestra in Southeast Minnesota, Hornseth said that it is fairly common for conductors.

“We had an applicant from South Dakota, one from Iowa, and one from the Twin Cities, so any of our choices would’ve had the same issue,” Hornseth said. “But due to our compressed practice schedule, Erik will be able to travel back and forth easily.”

Additionally, most conductors, including Rohde, work with multiple orchestras, so travelling for the job is typical.

According to Rohde, he was initially told about the position by a colleague, and encouraged to apply. He particularly like the fact that it was in this region, and the long history of the orchestra, which he thought would be interesting to be a part of.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with the talented musicians, connect with the community, and most of all, to invite new people to the orchestra. Our programs this year will be engaging even if people have never been to a concert before,” Rohde remarked.

Hornseth said he is excited for the change, which occurs during a landmark year for the orchestra. This year marks the 110th anniversary of the Winona Symphony Orchestra, and along with the retirement of Lovejoy, the year has been momentous.

“Each director brings a new idea, new color to the orchestra. We’re hoping that with Erik coming in with fresh energy, it will really energize the orchestra and the audience,” Hornseth exclaimed.

The community will have a chance to meet the new director at the symphony’s annual Summer Social, which will be on Sunday, September 9, at Elmaro Vineyard in Trempealeau.

 

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