Thursday, November 25, 2021

Philharmonic conductor’s contract is renewed

Nan Harrison Washburn
Longtime conductor and music director of the Michigan Philharmonic, Nan Harrison Washburn, has renewed her contract for three years through the Philharmonic 2024-2025 season. 

As the second longest-running conductor of the Philharmonic, Washburn has already led the regional symphony for 23 of the organization's 76-year history.  

In her role, Washburn has steadfastly focused on an innovative approach to performances, a deep dedication to engaging with audiences of all ages and interests and a true devotion to educating young musicians in the joys and intricacies of all forms of classical and even pop music, according to a statement from the Philharmonic board of directors. 

Earlier this year she was honored for her timeless efforts to promote the Philharmonic as the face of music culture in the community, being named one of Crain's Notable LGBTQ in Business leaders for 2021, which recognized her devotion to enriching all of the cultural community not only in and around metro Detroit but across the country. 

“We are thrilled to see Nan continue in her role as our conductor and leader,” said Philharmonic Board of Directors President Christopher Belcher. “We look forward to more of the wonderfully creative concerts and ideas that Nan always seems to have when developing an engaging approach to each of our seasons.” 

Throughout her 23 seasons Washburn has led the orchestra in artistic excellence and widening the scope and diversity of  programs while overcoming many challenges including a major name change, a broadening to regional reach and a world-wide health pandemic, the statement continued.  

National recognition for the orchestra during her tenure includes six ASCAP Awards, several prestigious grants from Knight Foundation and second place honors from The American Prize, professional orchestra division. 

From 2009-2017, she also served as the artistic director and principal conductor for the Michigan Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, an ensemble that she founded in 2003 as the Celebration Youth Orchestra. She has also held the posts as music director of Orchestra Sonoma, the Camellia Symphony in Sacramento, principal conductor of the Channel Islands Symphony, the Acalanes Chamber Orchestra, the American Jazz Theater, and director of the San Francisco State University Symphony Orchestra.  

Born in Denver and raised in southern California, the Plymouth resident has conducted throughout the U.S., including the symphony orchestras of Richmond, Sacramento, Wyoming, Eugene, Berkeley, Marin, Cheyenne, Dubuque, Perrysburg, Stockton, Napa Valley and San Luis Obispo.  

Since 2016, she has held the position of music director and conductor of the National Women's Music Festival Orchestra which performs at the annual festival each July in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1994, she also guest conducted the NWM Festival Orchestra and Chorus in the premiere and CD recording of Kay Gardner's large-scale work, “Ouroboros.” 

A professional flutist for a number of years, Washburn began her studies in conducting in 1984 working with Denis de Coteau at CSU Hayward, and continued studies with Harold Farberman for three years at the Conductors Institute, and at the Aspen Music Festival as a scholarship student of Paul Vermel.  

Winner of the American Prize in Orchestral Conducting, professional division 2013; the American Prize Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music, professional division 2016; and 19 ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming from the League American Orchestras, Washburn remains one of the most innovative and dynamic conductors working in the U.S. today.  As the first - and only - woman conductor of the Michigan Philharmonic, Washburn has become a community icon, well deserving of all the praise for her ongoing accomplishments and her efforts to mold the Philharmonic into a community jewel, for now and long into the future, the official statement concluded.