Robert Franz said he will step down as music director of the Boise Philharmonic at the end of the 2015-16 season.
“I have determined that over the past eight years, I accomplished all the goals I set out to do,” Franz said Monday. “I feel really good about the artistic quality of the orchestra, the guest artists we’ve brought in, and the repertoire we’ve performed and the community we’ve created. There is a deep sadness in me for leaving, but the artistic director in me says it’s time.”
Board Chairwoman Julie Kilgrow said she will miss Franz.
“I joined the board because of Robert,” Kilgrow said. “He’s been a very charismatic music director; he brought the orchestra to a high level of quality that we’ve enjoyed. It’s been wonderful. We wish him well.”
Franz, 47, has elevated and nurtured Boise’s classical music scene since he arrived in 2008. He was hired after a year-long search to replace James Ogle, who retired after 18 seasons as artistic director.
Energetic and forceful, Franz puts together interesting and thoughtful programs and taps some of the top soloists and living composers to showcase their talents and music.
“He’s one of the best conductors I’ve worked with, both musically and technically,” said Spencer Myer, who will play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with the Philharmonic this weekend. “It’s like he’s not just following me, he’s accompanying me. Robert has a zest for music and for life that people respond to.”
During his tenure, Franz expanded the orchestra’s repertoire of masterworks. He brought the Boise Master Chorale under the philharmonic’s umbrella and worked with Boise State University to develop a graduate string quartet program. He supported and performed the work of Idaho composers, including Jim Cockey and David Biedenbender.
He collaborated with many of Boise’s arts groups, including Ballet Idaho, Idaho Shakespeare Festival and the Boise Art Museum. He created a connection with area college and school district music programs, community orchestras and other groups.
But most of all, it’s about the music.
“My main goal was to create an orchestra where the musicians felt free to express themselves and to make music,” Franz says. “The orchestra has been doing that easily for a good chunk of my tenure here. So, I’ve done what I’ve set out to do.”
Franz led the orchestra’s artistic side during rocky financial times. The orchestra fell into about $500,000 debt in 2013. Franz and the board, led by Bill Drake at the time, reorganized and streamlined the organization, and made headway.
Kilgrow and her board recently raised the final $250,000 needed to eradicate the debt, she said.
“Now that we’ve done that, we can hold our heads up and think about where we’re going in the future,” Kilgrow said.
Franz and his family plan to keep Boise as his home base for the foreseeable future, he said. He also will continue as music director for the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, as an associate conductor at Houston Symphony, and pursue guest conductor gigs.
Franz announced the decision to the musicians Monday night after rehearsal..
“I think the musicians and I will have an elevated sense of purpose as we finish out the season together,” Franz said.
Kilgrow said the board will launch a national search for Franz’s replacement headed by Steve Trott, Jeannie Smith and Anthony Boatman, the same trio who recruited Franz.
Audiences can expect a season of guest conductors in 2016-17 during the search.
If you go: Boise Philharmonic and Spencer Myer
8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, Brandt Center, Northwest Nazarene University, 707 Fern St., Nampa, and 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane, Boise. Tickets: $22-$43.50 in Nampa, $23.75-$71.50 in Boise. 344-7849, BoisePhil.org.