Friday, November 21, 2014

San Diego Symphony Music Director Announces Departure

By Erica Miner

Now in his eleventh season as Music Director of the San Diego Symphony (, Maestro Jahja Ling has become an easily recognizable, much liked and admired presence on the San Diego classical music scene. 

On Thursday, November 20, Maestro Ling and the San Diego Symphony announced that Ling, the longest serving music director in the orchestra’s history, would take his final bow in that capacity at the orchestra’s Copley Symphony Hall at the end of the 2016-17 season. 

The announcement was made to the Symphony board of directors, musicians and administrative staff, whom Ling addressed on Thursday. 

“The 2016-17 season will mark my 13th anniversary with this wonderful organization and my final season as music director,” Ling told them. “These past 11 years have been a most rewarding and exhilarating life journey for me. We have accomplished so much, but I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to inspire and instill the spirit of integrity in everything that we do at the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.” 

During those eleven years, Ling has worked tirelessly to bring the orchestra back from an ensemble in decline to one that has been widely praised throughout the city, all over the US, and internationally. He has accomplished this through a meticulous audition procedure for new musicians, as well as engaging some of the world’s most celebrated soloists. Ling has increased the orchestra’s prominence through CDs, broadcasts on the local PBS station, and last season’s sold-out appearances at Carnegie Hall and on tour in China. He also has been committed to programming works that have never been performed by the orchestra, from both classical and contemporary composers. 

These accomplishments notwithstanding, Ling is most proud of the high quality of performance the orchestra has achieved. “For me it is also most rewarding when in our performances, we can move and stir our audience’s hearts and souls because of our utmost devotion to details in our preparation. I hope this spirit will continue to live on,” he said. 

Ling plans to set his considerable creativity on a path toward guest conducting and sharing his abundance of musical knowledge with subsequent generations of young musicians. “In my lifetime I was blessed with the opportunity to learn from and inherit the great Central European and American musical traditions,” Ling said. “These experiences have allowed me to pass on the best of both the great European and American traditions and to create a distinguished sound and style that this orchestra now manifests.” He also hopes to carry on with his volunteer Christian mission work in the city and worldwide. 

Newly appointed SDS CEO Martha Gilmer praised Ling and his history with the orchestra, as well as his ability to think ahead. “It is characteristic of the personal and artistic integrity that is associated with Jahja Ling that he has made this thoughtful decision with the foresight to allow the San Diego Symphony Orchestra the time to search for a successor to continue the remarkable work that Jahja has accomplished here,” she said. 

Gilmer also announced that the board will name Ling Conductor Laureate, a great honor for the maestro but also a well deserved one, which will help ensure his continued presence as a guest conductor for the orchestra. “We look forward to Jahja Ling’s upcoming seasons and want him to know how very much we appreciate all that he has done for this wonderful organization,” Gilmer said.

There is no question that Ling has served well and given his all to the orchestra, though he admits that a few of his objectives still remain unfulfilled; for example, taking the ensemble on tour to the great European concert halls. However, it is clear that he has given his decision a great deal of consideration, and feels that the timing is right. 

After thanking the board and staff for their support he added, “I am hopeful and confident that the future of this fine orchestra, led by our new CEO Martha Gilmer and supported by our talented administrative staff and committed board of directors, will be bright.”

Photo used by permission of San Diego Symphony
Erica Miner can be contacted at [email protected]

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