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Ready to Rach: Meet the Utah Symphony newcomers

Published September 13, 2012 10:53 am

Music • The orchestra has hired four players and a librarian.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After serving up a musical appetizer in the form of a pops concert celebrating Billy Joel, the Utah Symphony gets to the meat of its season this week. Music director Thierry Fischer will lead the orchestra in two major works of Rachmaninoff — the Piano Concerto No. 1, with Yevgeny Sudbin as soloist, and Symphony No. 2 — plus "Greeting Prelude," Igor Stravinsky's inimitable spin on "Happy Birthday."

Regular concertgoers might notice some newcomers onstage, as the orchestra has hired four players and an associate librarian in the past year.

Keith Carrick

Position • Principal percussion

Age • 28

Education • Boston University; New England Conservatory of Music

Carrick played five seasons as principal percussionist with the Sarasota Orchestra in Florida before taking the Utah job. He played a Sunday opera matinee in Florida, flew to Salt Lake City to audition on Monday, played in the semifinal round on Tuesday and caught a flight two or three hours after learning he had the job — so he could be at a 10 a.m. rehearsal Wednesday in Sarasota. "It is grueling, but that's how much you want it," Carrick said. "I barely slept, I was so excited going home."

As "the new kid on the block" here, Carrick said he feels fortunate to work alongside percussionists who performed with legendary music director Maurice Abravanel. He's also enthusiastic about the opportunities for outdoor recreation in his new home. A longtime hiker, fisher and kayaker, he looks forward to taking up skiing.

Claude Halter

Position • Principal second violin

Age • 30

Education • Lawrence University, Wisconsin; San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Halter, a native of Paris, started violin lessons at 7, followed by a stint in a boys choir. He returned to the instrument when his voice changed. After earning bachelor's and master's degrees in the United States, he played in the Miami-based New World Symphony, where he met cellist Anne Lee — now his fiancée.

Lee won a position in the Utah Symphony's cello section last year. Halter, who had taken a job as assistant concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony in British Columbia, had decided to join her here before he learned of the open violin position. "We got very lucky," he said. "Even to have the two openings is rare." Like many of his new colleagues, Halter is an enthusiastic outdoorsman. "Anne got the job first, but [Utah's outdoor lifestyle] probably suits my personal likes more," he said. "But it's growing on her, too."

Mercedes Smith

Position • Principal flute

Age • 30

Education • Manhattan School of Music

Smith was "drawn to the flute for some inexplicable reason" as an 11-year-old girl growing up in Texas. She remembers insisting her parents rush right out and buy her one.

Most of her professional experience has been in opera and ballet — she played principal flute at Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet for nine years. Not that the repertoire she will play in Abravanel Hall will be entirely new to her; Smith noted that the orchestra is performing Prokofiev's ballet music from "Romeo and Juliet" in February, and this summer's Deer Valley Music Festival included some opera selections. "It will be really good to have a mix of different things, not just opera and ballet," she said.

Lissa Stolz

Position • Oboe/English horn

Age • 40

Education • University of Iowa; Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, Chicago

Stolz has come a long way from the days when she had to lock the family cat in the bathroom while she practiced. She has spent the past three seasons playing oboe and English horn in the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra after freelancing and teaching in the Chicago area. She also played three seasons in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony's training orchestra.

Stolz officially makes her Utah Symphony debut this week, but she performed in Richard Strauss' sprawling "Alpine Symphony" during a trial week with the orchestra back in May. Stolz said she hopes to take advantage of Utah's outdoor culture and "become more outdoorsy" — it will be a nice break, she noted, from making reeds.

Maureen Conroy

Position • Associate librarian

Age • 30

Education • University of California-Santa Barbara; University of Michigan

Conroy's degrees are in horn performance, but she began to gravitate toward library work as a graduate student at the University of Michigan. An internship at the Detroit Symphony turned into a paid position as assistant librarian. She comes to Utah after five years in Detroit.

She and principal librarian Clovis Lark catalog and distribute the orchestra parts, making sure all are in good repair and aesthetically pleasing. "We do all the prep work ahead of time for the musicians to walk out and play something without having to fuss over the bowings or [wonder] if their parts are correct," she explained. "I'm part of the music in a fundamental way. I'm not onstage, but I'm still doing my part to make the performance happen."

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Are you ready to Rach?

Thierry Fischer conducts the Utah Symphony in its Masterworks Series opener.

With • Pianist Yevgeny Sudbin

Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City

When • Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 and 15, 8 p.m.

Tickets • $18 to $67 ($5 more on concert day) at http://www.utahsymphony.org, 801-355-ARTS or the box office; discounts available for students and groups

Cadenza • The orchestra's social networking group for listeners 55 and older offers a six-performance package, beginning with Friday's concert, for $155.

Learn more • Fischer will chat about the music with orchestra exec Toby Tolokan onstage in Abravanel Hall at 7 p.m.