After a season of conductors playing musical chairs, so to speak, the Florida Orchestra announced Tuesday that British musician Michael Francis, Chief Conductor of Sweden's Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, will be the orchestra's next music director.
The hiring ends a search that saw the Florida Orchestra host a revolving door of guest conductors for its 2013-2014 season that included candidates from around the globe. In the end, the orchestra was so happy with Francis they ended the search a year earlier than expected.
Francis will assume the role of music director starting with the 2015-2016 season. He will serve as music director designate for the upcoming 2014-2015 season while continuing his role with Norrköping Symphony Orchestra.
His duties include being the primary conductor and providing the artistic leadership for concert programming and related artistic decisions. Although Francis' primary role will be with the orchestra's Masterworks series, he will also conduct one concert each season for the Raymond James Pops and the morning Coffee Concert series.
His guidance comes at a time when the orchestra is using more inventive programming to attract younger audiences. Recent programs have incorporated music by Pink Floyd, the Beatles and the Eagles, while one showcased music and visuals from video games.
“Symphony orchestras are just as relevant today as they ever have been, perhaps even more so,” Francis said in a video statement. “When we go to a concert we are by its very nature almost forced into a position of silence for a couple of hours, distraction free from iPhones, from email. We're allowed to be alone with our thoughts. It's almost a cathedral of art in a way that no other institution is.”
The Florida Orchestra called Francis a “rising star internationally,” citing his work conducting the London, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Toronto symphonies, the New York, Japan and Seoul philharmonics, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Mariinsky Orchestra among others.
Francis will be only the fourth person to hold the music director position in the orchestra's nearly 50 year history. The orchestra's last musical director, Stefan Sanderling, ended his 10-year tenure in 2012.