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David Harman Steps Down as RPYO Music Director

For Immediate Release: September 20, 2013
Media Contacts:   Sally Cohen, 585-749-1795, [email protected], @PR4Arts
RPO Info:,,,

After 21 years, he’ll leave at end of 2013-14 season

Rochester, NY – Dr. David Harman will step down as Conductor and Music Director of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (RPYO) at the end of the upcoming 2013-14 season. His decision was announced at the organization’s annual retreat at Rotary Sunshine Camp yesterday evening.

“It has been a tremendous honor and great privilege to serve as music director of the RPYO for the past 20 years and to be part of the RPO’s Education Department, and I will very much miss working with the wonderful young people,” says Harman. “Although my positions as Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Activities at The U of R River Campus and Music Director of the Penfield Symphony will remain unchanged, I feel that retiring from my duties with the RPYO will provide more time to spend with family and explore new directions at this stage of my life.”

Harman’s 20th anniversary with the RPYO was a 2012-13 season-long celebration that featured a new commissioned work, Lilac Jubilee, written by Rochester-born composer Carson Cooman in honor of Dr. Harman. That work was given its world premiere at Carnegie Hall in February and its Rochester premiere in March in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre during its annual Side-by-Side concert with the RPO.  Conductor, native Rochesterian and former RPYO trombone alumnus Ward Stare’s rehearsal visit during his conducting debut with the RPO last season was also a highlight.

“Any success that I’ve had in my career so far can be traced back to my days with the RPYO,” says Stare. “I’ll be forever grateful to Dr. Harman.”

A symphony orchestra composed of young musicians in grades eight through 12 from schools throughout the greater Rochester area, the RPYO is sponsored by the Education Department of the RPO, whose musicians have served as mentors and coaches since it began in 1970.

“Over the past 21 years, David Harman has left a lasting legacy on the RPO by building what is widely viewed as the Rochester region’s premier ensemble for high school-age instrumentalists,” says RPO President and CEO Charles Owens. “At the same time, he has helped to nurture the talents of hundreds of gifted young musicians – a number of whom have gone on to pursue music in this country’s leading symphony orchestras and many more who will carry with them a lifetime of love and respect for symphonic music.”

In addition to his work with the RPYO, the University of Rochester and the Penfield Symphony, Dr. Harman has conducted professional, civic, university, youth and honor orchestras throughout the United States and abroad. Overseas conducting engagements have taken him to Slovenia, Shanghai, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Prior to coming to Rochester, Dr. Harman lived in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was a professor at the University of Louisville and conductor of the University of Louisville Orchestra, the Louisville Civic Orchestra and the Opera Theater Productions. While in Louisville, he served as executive secretary of the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. He also has held tenured positions at the University of Connecticut and Colorado State University. A native Californian, Dr. Harman completed undergraduate and master’s degrees from California State University at Sacramento and received scholarships to attend the Paris Conservatory and the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Eastman School of Music. Dr. Harman has had an active solo career as a clarinetist with three solo recordings (including one with pianist Anton Nel of a composition by David Liptak), numerous recital appearances in major concert halls in London and New York, and several national broadcasts recorded for French, British and American public radio. He lives in Rochester with his wife Lori Foster.

Says longtime RPYO board chair, David Ackroyd: “David Harman has been the face and the baton of the RPYO for more than 20 years. His inspirational leadership of our young musicians has been a blessing to them, their families, and the Rochester musical community. David will be missed and our challenge will be to identify a conductor who can continue with the type of inspirational leadership that he provided.”

The Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra is made up of more than one hundred of the most accomplished middle- and high-school musicians from more than thirty schools in the greater Rochester area. It provides highly enriching musical ensemble experiences to very accomplished young musicians from varied backgrounds. Each year the RPYO presents three full programs of major symphonic works, including a Side-by-Side Concert in Eastman Theatre with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition, the RPYO performs in special outreach concerts, enjoys exchanges with other youth orchestras and undertakes a major tour every three years. Musicians are admitted through highly competitive annual auditions each spring, and they rehearse and perform throughout the school year. Applauded for its high level of artistic achievement, the RPYO facilitates the musical, personal, and social development of its musicians within a challenging and supportive environment. Participation in the RPYO provides an excellent musical foundation for future professional or amateur careers in music, as testified by the large number of RPYO alumni playing in professional and semi-professional symphony orchestras and chamber groups throughout the country.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has been committed to enriching and inspiring our community through the art of music since its founding in 1922. The RPO presents up to 150 concerts a year, serving nearly 200,000 people through ticketed events, education and community engagement activities, and concerts in schools and community centers throughout the region. Notable former music directors include Eugene Goossens, José Iturbi, Erich Leinsdorf, David Zinman, and Conductor Laureate Christopher Seaman; Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik has earned a national reputation for excellence in pops programming during his 20-year tenure with the RPO. With Michael Butterman as Principal Conductor for Education and Outreach (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair) – the first position of its kind in the country – the RPO reaches 14,000 children through its specific programs for school-aged children.