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Carolyn Kuan, who has served as music director for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra since 2011, will continue to lead for another three years. The HSO announced Tuesday afternoon that the maestra’s contract has been extended a third time, through the end of the 2023-24 symphony season.
The 2020-21 season, which didn’t happen as planned due to the coronavirus pandemic, has been used to celebrate Kuan’s tenth year of leading the orchestra.
In some ways, audiences have gotten to know her better this way than in other seasons. Unable to perform live at The Bushnell, the HSO created a new series of online programming, much of it found on a dedicated “HSO to Go” page on the symphony’s website, hartfordsymphony.org. One of the regular series involved Kuan hosting talks about the works she’d planned to be conducting during the 2020-21 season but was unable to. The final “Masterworks in Depth” discussion was held in April.
The symphony, which has been creating fresh “HSO at Home” short solo performances and more elaborate filmed “Sunday Serenade” concerts virtually this season, is preparing to return to live performance. Last month the symphony announced that it would be resuming its series of outdoor “Summer Splash” concerts in Hartford parks and at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington in May and June. Hopes are high for a return to The Bushnell this fall for a regular concert season.
Kuan, the first female and first Asian music director of the HSO, has created diverse programming, pairing the orchestra to perform alongside acrobats, modern dancers, visual artists, theater performers and visual artists. To do this, she allied the symphony with other local arts organizations such as the Wadsworth, TheaterWorks Hartford and the New Britain Museum of American Art. She has also invited guest soloists adept on such instruments as the pipa, koto and bagpipes. HSO ensembles have found themselves performing at brewpubs, collaborative workspaces and art galleries. She oversaw the symphony’s 75th anniversary season in 2018, and will conduct the 20th anniversary season of its summer Talcott Mountain Music Series this summer. Under her leadership, the orchestra has increased the number of popular family movies it accompanies in its Pops series, including films in the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” series.
In a statement released with the announcement Tuesday, Kuan said “The past 10 years have been truly fulfilling, and it is a privilege to work with our amazing musicians, our board and staff, and this incredible community.”
Christopher Arnott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.