The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Maestro Andrew Sewell has been named the new music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony in California while retaining his longtime post as music director of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra | June 16, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra‘s longtime music director Andrew Sewell (below) has been named the new music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony in California.

The news comes in between the end of a critically acclaimed and very successful Masterworks season in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center and the start of the upcoming and always popular summer Concerts on the Square on Wednesday evenings from June 29 through Aug. 2.

Sewell, who was born and trained in New Zealand, has been an American citizen for the past 10 years. He led the Wichita Symphony Orchestra for 10 years and the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra in Ohio, and he also guest conducts in Hong Kong and many other cities in the U.S. and abroad.

Asked if the move means there will be guest conductors for the WCO, Sewell told The Ear:

“I will be conducting all concerts this year. The schedules for both orchestras work surprisingly well together.

“The situation is not unlike the first 10 years of my tenure in Madison when I was music director of the Wichita Symphony concurrently with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. I’ll share my time between both communities.” 

For more about Sewell’s impressive and extensive background, go to:

Here is a statement from the WCO:

“When Maestro Sewell raises his baton at Concerts on the Square this month, he will also be embarking on a new position as music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony. (At bottom, he seen conducting the San Luis Obispo Symphony.)

“Fans of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra need not worry, though, as he will retain his position and residence here in Madison. 

“We’re very proud of Andrew and what he has accomplished here in Madison, around the nation and abroad” said Mark Cantrell, CEO of the WCO. “This appointment reinforces what we already know about Andrew, that he is an exciting and impressive director and musician.

“We’re fortunate to retain him here as music director, and we look forward to many more years of him behind the baton with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. We wish him the best of luck in San Luis Obispo.”

For more about this story, use the following links:

Here is a WCO posting about the news:

Global Search Yields Symphony’s Ninth Conductor

And here is a newspaper story with many details about Sewell and his plans for the new position, including where he will live, as well as his plans for sharing repertoire and guest soloists:

SLO Symphony has a new director


  1. When I noticed some weeks back that the WCO was going to perform Bruckner, who is almost always played by larger forces, I thought the conductor was fishing. His rationale for the choice made no sense whatsoever. I suspect he will not be able to stay long here and will end up pretty much permanently in San Louis Obispo, which is kind of a pit stop between San Francisco and Los Angeles. A city of about 45,000.

    This might be good for Maestro Sewell and the WCO and Madison music in general. I certainly wish him well. (Too bad this article is so sketchy and press release related: it’s an important topic for the classical musical scene in Madison).

    Maestro Sewell has been here a long time and I do think it time to rethink the entire structure of classical music in the area, especially with his counterpart being in his mid-70’s. It’s time for new blood, and fresh approaches. In my opinion, the classical music scene has not adjusted to its great assets here: wonderful venues and an expanding and growing youthful and intellectual population.

    The easiest route to go is simply replacement and continuation of the same situation. But I think that would be a mistake. Preferable, in my opinion, is an approach used by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra where there are multiple musical conductors. That could be coupled with a more festival approach for music to be played. With music presented in festivals for let’s say, Beethoven; the German Classics (Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Mahler etc.); a “Giving Thanks” Festival for American composers (like Howard Hanson, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, Alan Hovhaness, and Amy Beach); a festival for French Music; and perhaps a festival for choral/operamusic etc. The possibilities are endless but you could have one conductor largely responsible for the musicians and multiple guest conductors.

    Whoever is brought in should bring fresh blood and thinking, preferably have some international experience, know something about the ties between the Madison musical scene and the University, and be able and excited about conducting a vast repertoire with many composers outside of the norm. Someone, in short, like Kenneth Woods (although I do not know if he is available or interested).

    Whatever happens, I think the organizations should think big.


    Comment by FFlambeau — June 16, 2017 @ 12:29 am

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