Eric Garcia is the new music director for the Boise Philharmonic, the orchestra announced Monday. The sixth of seven candidates to perform with the orchestra over the 2016-17 season, Garcia replaces Robert Franz, who stepped down in 2016 after eight seasons at the Boise Phil’s helm.
“I’m so excited to be coming to Boise,” Garcia said from his home in Oklahoma City, where he works as director of orchestral activities and associate professor of conducting at the Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University.
“My week (in Boise) was magical both on and off the podium,” he said.
Garcia said he was struck by Boise’s proximity to nature and connection to history and tradition “that’s also integrated with a beating pulse that’s driving forward into the future. That’s also a metaphor for the orchestra. It has a national reputation, one I’d love to see grow even greater in the next few years. I’m very excited for what we can do together.”
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During his Boise audition week in March, the soft-spoken Texan connected with the Boise Phil musicians, wowed the audience and impressed the search committee with his business savvy.
“I think it was a combination of his impeccable musicianship and his personality,” said principal timpanist Bill Shaltis, who was on the selection committee. “He really got along well with all the parties involved, and he has tremendous vision for the orchestra.”
“From the beginning, Eric was very genuine,” said Jeanie Smith, who helped lead the search committee. “He really listened to what we were saying, and the icing on the cake is that the musicians felt confident with him.”
Garcia’s experience includes being an assistant conductor at the Seattle Symphony; working with pop musicians Brandi Carlile, Pink Martini and Herbie Hancock; and collaborating with composers John Adams, Sergio Assad and George Crumb.
Garcia plans to relocate to Boise over the summer.
“In order for me to forge the relationships that need to be forged and get to know the community and the musicians, it is necessary for me to be there,” Garcia said.
Garcia, 39, grew up in Temple, Texas. As a kid he played drums and discovered classical music at age 10. He went on to study percussion in college but found himself drawn to composing and conducting. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and earned his master’s degree in conducting from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
Garcia is the sixth music director since the Boise Philharmonic was founded in 1962 under Jacques Brourman. Mathys Abas took over in 1967 and was followed by Dan Stern, who now leads the Boise Baroque Chamber Orchestra; James Ogle, who now heads the Meridian Symphony Orchestra; and Franz, who continues to live in Boise.
Garcia’s March performance with the philharmonic featured internationally renowned American violinist David Kim, who played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. For his audition, Garcia created an all-Russian program that opened with Shostakovich’s Festive Overture and closed with Prokofiev’s seldom-performed Fifth Symphony. (Read a review of the concert here.)
“I loved his programming,” said Jessie Polin, piccolo and second flute with the Boise Phil, and head of the musician’s committee.
“He’s incredibly clear and easy to follow,” Polin said. “He’s strong in his leadership. At our first rehearsal, we read it (Prokofiev Fifth Symphony) from top to bottom the first time through. That never happens. He was really in charge right away.”
During the audition process, the musicians fill out surveys after each performance. In the end, Gracia was the clear frontrunner.
“There was no debate about the outcome of the orchestra’s vote because the numbers were so clear, and that was a huge relief,” Polin said. “All the candidates were strong. I didn’t think we were going to have any consensus, but he was the first or second choice by the majority of the orchestra.”
“He is extremely competent as a conductor,” said Steve Trott, a longtime board member and member of the search committee. “We had some really strong candidates. We were looking for the right person for Boise and that clearly was Eric. He’s a humble guy in the right way.”
The 2017-18 Boise Philharmonic season includes the return of Grammy-winning cellist Zuill Bailey, who will perform Michael Daugherty’s “Tales of Hemingway.” Garcia is already at work on programming.