Artistic Director Matthew Ward leads the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra towards another great season

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By Erin Elliott
Contributing Writer

Following the departure of conductor César Leal from the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra, the University music department is excited to open a new chapter of the SSO under the artistic direction of Professor Mathew Ward.  As a new addition to the Sewanee music faculty, Ward is already directing rehearsals for this year’s SSO Halloween concert featuring Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre.

A California native, Ward has conducted both the Sewanee Summer Music Festival New Music Ensemble and the Louisiana State University Symphony Orchestra, as well as the LSU Philharmonia.  He served as the founding Music Director of the Baton Rouge Civic Orchestra and as a mentor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2016 National “Take a Stand” Festival. His career as a violinist includes performances with the Boston Civic Symphony, Boston Opera Collaborative, New England Repertory Orchestra, as well as other symphonies and ensembles across the United States.  

On an international level, he has toured Italy as concertmaster with the La Primavera Symphony and has earned a silver medal for a performance in the Sydney Opera House during the Australian International Music Festival.

Ward first became involved with Sewanee as an orchestral fellow for the 2018 Sewanee Summer Music Festival, where he became familiar with what he describes as a “rich, supportive culture both at the summer music festival and at the school.”  

As Ward wrote, “I was amazed at how generous the faculty, staff and students are. When I heard the orchestra director position opened up, I jumped on the opportunity to be a part of the team.”

You can see Ward in action directing the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra in two separate Halloween performances on October 31.  The morning concert will be attended by students from multiple local elementary schools, while the evening will feature the SSO’s full symphonic program.  

Later in the semester, Ward’s program in December will commemorate 50 Years of Sewanee Women at the University of the South, and will be comprised exclusively of music from female composers.

“I am extremely fortunate to be at Sewanee at a time of such growth and excitement surrounded by outstanding faculty and inspiring students,” Ward stated.  “It has been communicated that the orchestra is looking for the next chapter in its artistic success, and I couldn’t be happier to help contribute to that opportunity.  Since I’ve arrived here, it has become apparent the generous culture at Sewanee is even greater than my initial perception. I am one of five new additions to the music department this year. We have many exciting plans for the music department and how we interact with the students, faculty and surrounding communities.”

Ward comes to Sewanee at an exciting time for the music department, which in this semester also welcomes four additional faculty members:  Kerry Ginger, assistant professor of voice; Jason Rosenberg, assistant professor and director of music theory & composition; Erik Gustafson, visiting instructor of voice; and Rhaea D’Aleisio, office manager for the Sewanee Summer Music Festival.