Maestro Andrés Lopera entered a three-year contract as Richmond Symphony Orchestra’s fourth music director. Supplied

Lopera offers ‘unbounding energy, passion’

After inviting audiences to watch five conductors audition for their potential new job, Richmond Symphony Orchestra has hired its top choice.

Late last week, Maestro Andrés Lopera entered a three-year contract with RSO as its fourth-ever music director.

RSO Board President Jeff Carter said Lopera “brings unbounding energy and passion to his role.”

“He is excited to work with the RSO’s talented musicians, engage the local community, and inspire a rising generation of music enthusiasts,” Carter said in a news release. “With vision and enthusiasm, Maestro Lopera will carry the energy of this season into the next.”

The search process began nearly two years ago, when RSO’s third music director Guy Victor Bordo announced he would retire at the end of the 2021-2022 season.

Carter thanked board member Jeff Jackson and the search team he led for their careful work in narrowing the candidate pool of 53 to five and evaluating them further.

Each finalist conducted a concert during the 2022-2023 season, toured the city and met a variety of community stakeholders. RSO musicians, board members and audiences could share their thoughts after each concert with the search committee.

“I was amazed at the pool of talent we witnessed this season: Luke Frazier, Jacob Joyce, Wesley Schulz, Matthew Kraemer and Andrés Lopera were all so impressive,” Jackson said in the release. “I really did not want this season to end.”

Kraemer, a Richmond High School graduate, withdrew from RSO’s search after being appointed music director of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in New Orleans and renewing his contract with Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra through 2027.

Lopera was the selection committee’s top choice after seeing his engagement with others and artistry from the stage, the release said.

Andrés Lopera. Supplied

RSO describes Lopera as one of the leading Latin American conductors in the United States. Lopera, in his mid-30s, is a Colombian native.

Lopera is currently serving in his third season as associate conductor of the Columbus (Ohio) Symphony and music director of Columbus Youth Symphony Orchestra. Lopera will remain in Columbus and commute to Richmond.

This will be Lopera’s first music director position. He said he was attracted to strategic initiatives the board set, including maintaining and strengthening funding relationships, increasing collaborations in the community, programming a greater diversity of repertoire, and reestablishing RSO’s long commitment to schools and youth programming.

“Working with all the musicians of the orchestra was an amazing experience,” Lopera said in the release. “Everyone was very kind and receptive — qualities of a great orchestra that turned into performing a terrific concert.

“Meeting the staff and seeing how much they care for the community they serve only added to my excitement. I see a lot of potential, and I believe that the core values of the Richmond Symphony align with my mission and vision as an artist. It truly was a great pleasure to meet this incredible Richmond community. It is inspiring to feel the pride everyone has for the symphony orchestra, and it is an honor to be selected as your music director.”

Monica Koechlein, RSO executive director, acknowledged that it was overwhelming to work with eight different conductors during the season, but said the lengthy search process illuminated many opportunities for the organization.

“At each concert, we listened intently and learned from each other what we want RSO to be,” Koechlein said. “We claimed this orchestra as our own individually and collectively. I’m looking forward to working with a new partner that wants to work together to take Richmond’s Symphony Orchestra to new heights and beyond. I couldn’t be more excited that Andres Lopera is that partner.”

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A version of this article appeared in the March 22 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.