Warren orchestra Conductor Wyner puts down her baton

WARREN — After 24 years, Susan Davenny Wyner is stepping down as music director and conductor of the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra.

Her final concert will be the orchestra’s April 21 performance at First Presbyterian Church in Warren.

The orchestra announced the decision in a press release Wednesday afternoon, but Wyner said she notified the board of her intentions in June.

“I just love the orchestra and the community so much; I just wanted to do what is right,” she said.

Wyner lives in Boston with her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Yehudi Wyner, and she commuted to Warren for its concerts.

“Things are changing so much in the arts, I feel very strongly as music director that I want to be a part of the community more than I’m able to,” she said. “My hope is they can find someone more local who can be there to do the fundraising and the outreach. When we were doing four, five concerts a year, I was there often enough that I could be in the schools more often and meet with community leaders and be a part of that aspect of it.”

For budgetary reasons, the orchestra has scaled back in recent years to two performances annually.

Resigning from the WPO won’t impact Wyner’s role as music director with Opera Western Reserve.

“My feeling is there as music director, I’m a very important cog in a complex wheel,” she said. “We have Scott (Skiba, production director) there in the area and Robert (Pierce, production manager) there on the ground in the way I envision (for the next orchestra music director/conductor).”

During her tenure with the orchestra, Wyner brought in nationally known classical artists to perform with the Warren orchestra and showcased artists with roots in the Mahoning Valley.

Wyner conducted the orchestra that accompanied renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma when he played a free concert at Warren Community Amphitheatre in 2018.

Wyner said so many memories stand out, but the strongest one is the quality of the musicians in the orchestra.

“This orchestra is so special,” she said. “It has a quality of warmth and feeling and communicative range that one doesn’t feel often in orchestras. The friendships I’ve built over these years are very precious to me.”

Wyner’s work with other ensembles has been praised by critics in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe, and she has recorded for Bridge and Albany records.

Wyner also expanded the orchestra’s educational outreach during her time as conductor, including the start of the Frank R. Bodor Strings of Joy program that provides free violin instruction for Trumbull County students in grades 3 to 7.

Orchestra board President William Mullane said, “Susan has been a joy to work with. She’s been wholly committed to classical music and making it accessible to everyone in the community. She’s had an undying commitment to outreach to the schools and underserved audiences. I’ll miss her and wish her well.”

Barry Dunaway, executive director of the orchestra, said he has many fond memories of Wyner’s time with the orchestra, particularly the concert when former Ohio State University football coach and Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel joined the orchestra for “Casey at the Bat.”

Leanna Dunaway, assistant executive director said she loved hearing the Strings of Joy students perform the work composed specifically for them by Yehudi Wyner, as well as private events like the fundraisers in supporters’ homes that the Wyners would attend and Yehudi often would play the piano with orchestra members.

The orchestra will start its search for a new conductor immediately, and Mullane said they want to have someone in place for the start of the 2024-25 season in the fall.

Interested candidates can send a letter of interest and resume by email to warren.philharmonic@gmail.com or by mail to: WPO Conductor Search Committee, c/o Leanna Dunaway, 154 N. Park Ave., Warren, OH 44481.

Leanna Dunaway said, “We’ll be looking for someone willing to think outside the box from classical, do something more up to date (like) pops concerts and get back in the schools to do a children’s concert like we did before the pandemic hit.

“What we expect from a conductor is to not only conduct, but to make up some really exciting programs and expand on the educational programming to the kids in the schools.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Andy Gray at agray@tribtoday.com


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