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Q&A with Susanna Perry Gilmore, Violinist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra



Memphis' loss is Omaha's gain.

Long time Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO) violinist Susanna Perry Gilmore will remain in Memphis throughout the 2011-12 season. But when the season ends, Perry Gilmore, who's performed as the MSO's concertmaster since 1997, is off for her new role as concertmaster for the Omaha Symphony.

Perry Gilmore will perform as a soloist for the MSO's opening Masterworks concerts on September 17th and 18th, playing Korngold's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.

Flyer: The good news is that you aren't leaving town tomorrow. You are going to stay in Memphis throughout the 2011-12 season and then take some time off before you start work in Nebraska.

Susanna Perry Gilmore: That's right. I'm not dead yet.

What are you leaving behind, and what are you walking into?

I've been with the MSO for 15 years. That is a great chunk of time, and I wasn't looking to go anywhere. [The Omaha Symphony] asked if I would come up for a few weeks in June. It quickly became clear that they were having a search. I was blown away by how well the orchestra played together, and it became clear that the musicians wanted me to be their next orchestra master. This was the right time to make a change. I just turned 40 and have two young kids. The job description is more streamlined.

It's been a tough time for orchestras, but Omaha has been weathering it well.

I'm going to take a position in an orchestra that is very financially stable.

During your time with The MSO, the organization has been on something of a roller coaster. But things seem to be stable now.

All over [the country], orchestras have been less financially secure. Major orchestras that thought they'd never be in this position are in this position. We've been facing this music for a long time here. We're on other orchestras' radar to see if we can solve the conundrum facing classical music. I am impressed with the energy [conductor] Mei Ann [Chen] has brought with her, and I hope my successor will be part of a real golden era with the MSO.

The conundrum being ...

How flexible can you be [in terms of programming] without being so flexible that you start eating away at your own art form? Opus One [a unique modified pops program featuring local rock and roots performers playing with the orchestra], for example, still presents unadulterated classical music.

Why is Omaha doing so well?

They call themselves the eco-city. Their unemployment [rate] is like 5 percent. People in Omaha seem to be glad that a lot of people don't know about Omaha.

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