A New Maestro in Town

event Daniel StewartDaniel Stewart takes the reigns of the Santa Cruz County Symphony

For Daniel Stewart, being selected as the new maestro for the Santa Cruz County Symphony is akin to hitting the vocational jackpot.

“The Greater Bay Area is my favorite place in the world,” says Stewart, who was born in San Francisco. “It’s a dream come true and a real joy to be back in the Bay Area. Music is like a passport: it can take you anywhere in the world. I’ve been lucky, it’s taken me to over 40 countries, but it’s really a special thing to wind up in a place where you really would like to be.”

The search to find a new maestro to replace the recently retired John Larry Granger took just over two years, and Stewart was chosen from a pool of more than 200 applicants. Five were invited to be guest conductors during the 2012-13 season, with Stewart conducting a concert in March called “Transcendence!” Stewart found the application process intriguing.

“It was exciting and competitive,” he says. “This was a fascinating process because it was done over such a long period of time, and they had a few of us come out to conduct concerts. During that week, we got to know the orchestra and the community and it was a wonderfully immersive process.”

Stewart has an insatiable, almost reverential appreciation for music. He played the viola for youth symphonies growing up—including ones in San Francisco, Santa Rosa and Marin—has been a Cover Conductor for the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the St. Louis Symphony and the Atlanta Symphony, and has composed music which has been performed at renowned music festivals. Stewart offers a unique skill set when conducting, since he is familiar with the composition, performance and conducting aspects of the musical experience.

“The idiomatic explosion over the last 100 years of different types of music and different ways we can share it and listen to it is amazing,” says Stewart. “It’s like we’re in the midst of the most unprecedented musical renaissance of all time and still coming to grips with the mass spectrum of what’s out there. Something that’s so exciting to me is what a major misnomer ‘classical music’ is because it’s not any one style at all. It’s a collection of styles from 400-plus years of different idioms and traditions that classical musical distills down to their essence and weaves into a new language. That language is always evolving and incorporating every other type of music.”

Granger was not involved in the selection process, but says he is pleased with Stewart’s appointment.

“He’s a very exuberant, energetic young man,” Granger says. “Very talented. I think his enthusiasm for the music and the orchestra will be very effective for the Santa Cruz Symphony and the community.”

This season will feature everything from Mozart’s “Requiem” to selections from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” and pianist Jeffrey Kahane, cellist Austin Huntington, and the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus will be making guest appearances. Stewart is excited to show the community what the Symphony has in store.

“I want every artist in the community to feel that the symphony is theirs,” says Stewart. “From dubstep to folkloric musicians to anybody who will turn on the radio, it’s a wonderful place to enjoy this incredible diversity of music. We have this vast collection of sounds that we can play symphonically, and each of those has something powerful and unique to say about what it’s like to be alive.”  

The Santa Cruz County Symphony performs at  8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Civic Auditorium,  307 Church St., Santa Cruz. $22-$67. 420-5260.

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