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Palmer to take on bigger role with local orchestra

Veteran conductor to lead ensemble in 2022-23 season

Courtesy photo New music director and conductor Nick Palmer will begin his first full season in these new capacities with the Altoona Symphony Orchestra this fall.

New music director and conductor Nick Palmer will begin his first full season in these new capacities with the Altoona Symphony Orchestra this fall.

Formerly a principal guest conductor and artistic advisor with the symphony, Palmer is ready to take on positions of greater responsibility.

“I’m very excited about taking the reins of the orchestra and taking it to the next level,” Palmer said.

Palmer’s first full season in a new leadership capacity will feature unique performances, including a Halloween-themed concert, featuring pieces from “The Witches of Eastwick,” “Nightmare Before Christmas” and “The Twilight Zone.” The symphony invites guests to come in costume.

“It’s a new idea that we had because that concert usually falls around Halloween, and we thought it would be really fun for the audience, with a combination of classical music and popular music,” Palmer said. “We want to make it as fun of an event as possible for the whole family and for it to be appealing to our current concertgoers and some new concertgoers as well.”

The Hingham, Massachusetts, native’s goals for his first year at the helm include drawing a younger audience. To achieve this, Palmer said he and the symphony will aim to step up its outreach efforts.

“We really want to bring in new audience members because the symphony really is for the whole community,” Palmer said. “It’s important to get out there with better and more modern marketing and use of social media. It’s about how we engage the audiences. Those things are integral in developing a larger base.”

Symphony executive director Janey Schwind said she looks forward to watching Palmer assume his new positions.

“It’s hard to capture how fun he is to work with, and he’s incredibly dynamic and personable, extremely forward thinking and constantly collaborating to make the orchestra more accessible,” Schwind said. “He will keep up with the traditions of a great orchestra, and he’s just an incredible musician and person and fun to collaborate with; he’s a great team player.”

Schwind said the orchestra has had many great conductors in its history but that Palmer will be a particularly good fit for the position.

“They’ve all brought something different to the orchestra, but I think Nick brings a different perspective and a different take on things, just kind of thinking in different ways to move forward.”

What makes Palmer stand out, Schwind said, is his passion for the community, which he hopes to touch through his work.

“One of the biggest things is that we’re so excited to have him working with a lot of people in the community who will enjoy watching him work and all the things he brings to the table with the orchestra,” Schwind said. “He’s a very likable guy, not just with gearing toward the musician role but also very interested in reaching out to the entire community to make music accessible and relatable to more people.”

Palmer will begin his first full season with his new duties when the symphony opens its season with the performance of Dvorak’s “New World” symphony on Oct. 8.

“It’s a real, classic work that really showcases the violin, and we are fortunate to have not only a wonderful concertmaster, but a world-class soloist. It’s something that can be embraced by an audience.”

Genaro Medina, the symphony’s concertmaster and lead violinist, believes in his colleague and said Palmer will be a great fit for his new role with the organization.

“He has vast experience,” Medina said. “Because of his experience, he knows where the level should be. I can tell he knows the potential of the orchestra and he has a vision for where he wants the orchestra to go. I expect an evolution of the orchestra; he wants to bring it to a new, high standard.”

In 1992, Palmer was the recipient of the Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras as the nation’s most outstanding young music director. He’s worked with top-tier ensembles including the London Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Springfield (MA) Symphony and Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, and has conducted at the Kennedy Center and Dvorak Festival.

“I’m excited about our artistic level right now, but I’m excited to see how it can grow, develop and become better,” Palmer said. “I know and love the community and it’s a pleasure to spend time in Altoona. We want to bring this to a higher level; that’s what really excites me.”

Mirror Staff Writer Andrew Mollenauer is at 814-946-7428.

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