The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in November, is at the threshold of exciting transitions, says executive director Elaine Eckhart. Last week, the orchestra announced three finalists to succeed music director Kirk Trevor, who will retire at the close of the 2014-15 season after 27 years in the role.
But that's just the most recent move. Change started during the 2012-13 season with the retirement of concertmaster Larry Shapiro, who was replaced by Emily Glover. Then last year, the ICO named Butler's then-brand new Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts as its home concert location. The ICO will wind up its season there Saturday with a program featuring violinist Benjamin Beilman, bronze medalist at the 2010 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.
"We have a really stable organization," Eckhart says. "Twelve of our current roster of 36 musicians are part of the original group. We have a wonderful track record of playing together, yet change is opening up lots of possibilities."
Eckhart, an ICO volunteer before she became executive director, says Trevor "took a very young organization and grew it." The ICO first performed in 1984 as Musicians of the Cloister at Trinity Episcopal Church, and Trevor was appointed music director in 1988, a year after the group assumed its current name. "He had a vision to connect the ICO with audiences in intimate ways. I came away from every concert connected and having discovered something new."
Each candidate to replace Trevor will conduct a concert during the 2014-15 season. They are Kelly Corcoran, chorus director of the Nashville Symphony (Tenn.); Matthew Kraemer, associate conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic (N.Y.) and an Indiana native; and Mischa Santora, music director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.
Trevor's last concert will be in May 2015, and the new music director will assume leadership with the 2015-16 season.
Early on, with no home base, the ICO performed in a variety of venues, including the Indianapolis Museum of Art for silent films and live music, the Eiteljorg for concerts in a conversational style and Indiana Landmarks Center for sing-along programs.
The ICO's focus on artistic programming with high caliber soloists also involves relationships with the American Pianists Association and the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.
With educational programs as a dual mission, the ICO takes the FUNtastic Classics series to elementary schools to introduce students to the instrument groups of the orchestra and the concept of communicating ideas through music and storytelling. "It's about discovering and sparking imagination," adds Eckhart.
On the high school level, the ICO Youth Wind Ensemble directed by Brent Hornaday and the ICO Youth Jazz Ensemble directed by Rob Dixon, require auditions to participate, with the goal being presentation of public concerts.
Being named the Schrott Center's professional orchestra-in-residence is an artistic homecoming (the ICO's administrative offices are at Butler) and "a boon for programming because acoustically and size-wise it is a perfect venue for the ICO," Eckhart says.
This artistic partnership led to naming James Aikman as composer-in-residence and commissioning the world premiere of Aikman's Triptych: Musical Momentum as part of the 2014 Butler ArtsFest.
According to Eckhart, having a relationship with a composer keeps the ICO "on the forefront of adding to our repertoire" and is "an important part of our ongoing mission to advance and promote music composed for the small orchestra through professional concert performances."