Vancouver Symphony has new executive director

Clarinetist has been manager, librarian since April 2011

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 
photoIgor Shakhman

A familiar face has taken over the top job at The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Igor Shakhman, who has been the orchestra manager and librarian since April 2011, was promoted to executive director Sept. 4.

"It's going to be exciting and challenging," Shakhman said of the new position. "A lot of work needs to be done, but the orchestra is doing better."

The VSO almost folded in the summer of 2011 due to a drop in corporate sponsorships and private donations. As part of the strategy to save the orchestra, former executive director Carly McDowell's position was cut July 1, 2011 and an open position for a marketing director was also eliminated.

But the financial situation improved over the 2011-2012 season, with more people turning out for concerts than ever before, Shakhman said.

In particular, a performance with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry of Gustav Holst's seven-part suite called "The Planets" broke all prior attendance records when 3,700 people turned up for four performances of the show in May 2012.

"Of course, finances, it's always a challenge in every arts organization and every orchestra," Shakhman said. "But our program is great. It's already in place. So what we're going to do is improve the quality of each performance and also make more connections and collaborations with other organizations in the area."

Shakhman joined the VSO in 2007 as principal clarinet. The organization's board members selected him for the executive director position because of his strong background and leadership abilities, said VSO chairwoman Kathy McDonald.

"Igor is not only a world-class musician, but under his leadership as orchestra manager for the past year, the VSO has thrived financially and creatively," she said. "Coming off one of our greatest seasons ever, we're lucky to have him at the helm."

Shakhman already has some big performances in the works for the 2012-2013 season, which starts Oct. 6.

The first concerts, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. and Oct. 7 at 7 p.m., will feature violinist Nitai Zori and cellist Hillel Zori, renowned musicians and brothers from Israel. Both performances will be at Crossroads Community Church, 7708 N.E. 78th St.

Shakhman is also planning a concert of music inspired by William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" on Jan. 19 and 20 and a performance of "Alexander Nevsky" by Prokofiev on May 25 and 26 with the Oregon Repertory Singers.

"We're also expanding to nine chamber music concerts this year -- with small ensembles in an intimate setting every month," Shakhman said.

In prior years, VSO did three pairs of chamber music concerts each year, he said.

"I'm very excited and I hope the community will continue to support the orchestra," Shakhman said.

Tickets for the 2012-2013 season are on sale at http://vancouversymphony.org or by calling 360-735-7278.

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://twitter.com/col_SueVo;sue.vorenberg@columbian.com.