New VSO executive director visits Brattleboro, wants to see more concerts in southern Vermont

BRATTLEBORO — Last month, the Southeast Friends of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra (VSO) had a reception at the Brooks House Atrium to announce a new initiative to bring more VSO events to Brattleboro. The organization's members also wanted to introduce to the community the new executive director of the VSO, Benjamin Cadwallader.

“The VSO truly serves everyone in Vermont,” says Cadwallader. “It is the only state symphony orchestra in the country that performs throughout the state.”

People in southern Vermont may be familiar with VSO through the annual concert from its Made in Vermont tour, which plays at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro and the Bellows Falls Opera House, as well as from its Fourth of July Pops Concert with fireworks in Grafton.

But the VSO has many programs that serve the whole state, including its Masterworks Series, Sunday Matinee Series, Holiday Pops, VSO Brass Quintet, Counterpoint Holiday Concerts, and Summer Festival Tour.

The VSO performs 50 concerts in more than 20 communities across Vermont.

As it approaches its 80th anniversary, VSO is perhaps more dedicated than ever to its mission to bring music, not only to performance halls, but to historical and community buildings, school gymnasiums, armories, and even beautiful natural settings on hillsides – anywhere Vermonters would gather to enjoy and share all forms of music.

VSO has proven its value and sustainability, not only as the nation's oldest state-supported orchestra, but as one of the finest for its size.

In addition to concert programming, SymphonyKids presentations annually reach, on average, half of Vermont's elementary and middle school students.

“The VSO visited 231 schools last year, reaching 31,000 students,” says Cadwallader.

The orchestra serves the statewide community year round with outreach programs, children's concerts, and composer residencies, as well as choral and chamber music concerts.

“We are here in Brattleboro exploring the interest and support for more here for the VSO,” Cadwallader told The Commons. “We would like to make this wonderful arts town a regular stop, if that is what the community wants, and if they are willing to support it.”

Cadwallader comes to the VSO from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he worked in its education program. Before that, he worked for the Texas Youth Orchestra in San Antonio. He brings youth and enthusiasm to his new position as the VSO's executive director.

“I am over the moon excited about the potential and possibilities of working with VSO,” he says. “It is the brightest example of a Vermont cultural gem.”

Cadwallader originally wanted to be a professional musician.

“As an oboist, I played in the Vermont Youth Orchestra from 1996 to 2003,” he says. He left Vermont to study the oboe at Mannes College of Music in Manhattan but, while there, he was offered an internship in arts administration with the New York String Orchestra, working for the first time with Jaime Laredo.

“Jamie has always been central to the major events in my career,” says Cadwallader. “That job with the string orchestra was pretty low level, mostly getting people coffee and food and making sure the musicians had their music. But I loved it. I became smitten with the world of arts administration and realized that was where my career should go.”

In announcing Cadwallader's appointment last month, VSO Board president Victoria Young noted, “We are thrilled that Benjamin has chosen to return to his home state to lead this marvelous organization. Benjamin's experience in educational programming and new initiatives will be invaluable as the VSO moves forward.”

Laredo, the VSO's music director, said he was “delighted with the choice of Ben. I couldn't be happier. He and I are going to be great partners.”

Past VSO board member Ed Colodny adds, “Benjamin has been working tirelessly and effectively in arts management for many years. Beginning his musical career in his home state of Vermont was definitely a factor in our decision to hire him.”

Born in Philadelphia, Cadwallader grew up in Vermont, so he knows the state well.

“Coming from South Burlington, the VSO has been part of my musical life from an early age and had a profound impact on my steps to a lifelong career in music,” says Cadwallader. “Returning to my beloved home state to work for an orchestra committed to sharing world-class concerts with the entire state of Vermont is inspiring.”

Cadwallader said that he looked forward “to building on the legacy of musical excellence, commitment to community, and financial strength. My Vermont pride runs deep, and the opportunity to call this beautiful state home once again is, of course, the icing on the cake."

Cadwallader went on to identify what it means to be a Vermonter.

“I know that Vermonters are extreme militants about the worth of our state,” he says. “My job, in essence, is about building partnerships and relationships between the VSO and its community. Let me put it this way. One hundred percent of the people in this state love music. VSO wants to touch those lovers of good music. To do that, we must start with healthy, honest, and regular conversations. That includes in-house discussions too, with the board, staff and orchestra.

“At its institutional core, VSO is a collection of humans who are trying to promote beauty, a love of which is innate in everybody. I believe my job as VSO's executive director is to help make that happen.”

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