Richard Fletcher hired as new conductor of college orchestra

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Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

After an extensive search, conductor Richard Fletcher has been hired to lead the Swarthmore College Orchestra, succeeding Daniel Alfred Wachs. Fletcher attended Julliard and the New England Conservatory of Music, and has previously taught at Harvard, Julliard, New York University, and other colleges. His professional background includes conducting positions with the New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony and New York City Opera. The New York Times described him as “one of the most thoughtful young conductors around today.”

“We’re lucky to have him,” said Music Department Chair Tom Whitman. “It’s the first time we’ve had a conductor who was very active professionally.” Most of the previous conductors have come from graduate school to Swarthmore and moved fairly quickly onto professional careers, such as Wachs (who left for the Minnesota Orchestra). Fletcher is already well into such a career, with many guest conducting credits, awards and publications on his resume. Originally from Massachusetts, he has studied composition, double bass and trumpet as well as conducting.

Whitman called the nationwide search “thorough and painstaking.” It attracted 93 applicants, many including conducting videos; the previous search only had received four applications. Three finalists were brought to campus, where they auditioned by conducting the orchestra. This proved to be an interesting experience, including some surprisingly fast tempos from the first candidate and a timpani demonstration by the second candidate. Fletcher, the third candidate, was the most popular of the finalists among the orchestra members, who expressed their opinions at a discussion over lunch with Whitman.

Bassoonist Aaron Hollander ’07 supported Fletcher during the search process. He was extremely impressed by Fletcher’s audition, citing his intelligence and passion for music, even apparent in a brief and tense audition. “I wanted to go into the music with him,” Hollander said. “His musical expression and talent are extraordinary … he’s going to bring a lot to the orchestra.” Whitman agrees. “We’re delighted with the outcome [of the search],” he said.

Micaela Baranello is a member of the Swarthmore College Orchestra and
participated in the search process.

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