When the Coastal Symphony of Georgia announced the impending retirement of its musical director and conductor, Maestro Luis Haza, members of its search committee immediately got to work to select a new leader for the only symphony orchestra between Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla.
Michelle Merrill will be the new music director and conductor for the 2018-2019 concert season. She currently serves as the associate conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Haza, when he steps down from the podium in May 2018, will have led the symphony for six years.
Alice Barlow, a past president of Coastal Symphony of Georgia, was the search committee chair. Other members of the committee included Michael Frick, board member and senior partner of Hall Booth Smith P.C., the symphony’s music director and conductor’s chair; Sharon Flores, immediate past president and executive director of the symphony and Linda Muir, current symphony president. The committee selected Merrill after interviewing and considering several excellent candidates from across the Southeast. Merrill has already begun working with the symphony.
An accomplished and sought-after director, Merrill has made an array of guest appearances with symphonies across the U.S., and is recognized as a rising star. According to a release from the Coastal Symphony of Georgia, “she will bring musicality, artistry, verve and virtuosity” to her role. She will be introduced to the community through a series of appearances in spring 2018.
According to her biography, Merrill recently conducted the world-premier performance of Gabriela Lena-Frank’s “Walkabout: Concerto for Orchestra” with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. This fall, she collaborated with New Music Detroit for its annual marathon “Strange Beautiful Music 9,” which featured David Lang’s “are you experienced?” and the world premiere of Andrew Harrison’s “Hum,” based on the poetry of Detroit native Jamal May.
Closer to home, in June 2015, she made her debut at the St. Augustine Music Festival conducting the world premiere performance of Piotr Szewcyzk’s “St. Augustine Suite,” which was written in honor of the city’s 450th anniversary. The highly praised performance was later featured on NPR’s “Performance Today.”
Born in Dallas, Merrill studied conducting at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, from where she has a Master of Music degree in conducting and a Bachelor of Music in performance. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, running, hiking, and spending time with her husband, Steve Merrill, who serves as the principal percussionist of the Jacksonville Symphony, and their newborn son, Davis.
Symphony General Manager Jorge Pena, who is also the principal violist of the symphony, will work with Merrill to create the program for the 2018-2019 concert season.
The new season brochure will be mailed to symphony patrons in April 2018 and published on the symphony website at www.coastalsymphonyofgeorgia.org.