Recent History – 2006
By Brad Lyon, 10 April 2006
A native of Dawson Creek is the new music director of the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Symphony Orchestra (CRSO). Timothy Hankewich, the fourth candidate to compete for the music director position during the 2005-2006 search season, was announced as the Symphony’s new music director and conductor on March 16.
Hankewich is the fifth conductor in the organization’s history to hold this position and succeeds Maestro Christian Tiemeyer who served as the organization’s music director for 23 consecutive years.
“I am absolutely thrilled that I have been invited into the CRSO family,” said Hankewich. “Since the day of my first arrival, I knew that this was a terrific place for my wife and me to build our lives together. The people have been overwhelmingly welcoming and enthusiastic, and I felt strongly attached to the orchestra and the area long before deliberations even began.”
Hankewich is a graduate of South Peace Senior Secondary School, class of 1985. In a phone interview on Monday night, he recalled that during his youth, Dawson Creek just seemed to have a large number of students and instructors who were interested in the arts.
“My time in Dawson Creek was a surprisingly active time in the arts. We had a confluence of some really great students and some really great teachers…,” Hankewich said. “For some reason, there was something in the air.”
He pointed to instructors such as Merrill Flewelling and Rotraud Lopp, and mentioned several other top notch students in school at the same time. He said that joining the Cedar Rapids symphony is the culmination of a lifetime worth of effort.
“It’s quite a big step. Every stage of one’s career, making the next logical step is a big leap…,” Hankewich said. “In many ways, all my education since I was five years old has been leading up to this.”
Hankewich most recently came from the Kansas City Symphony where he served as resident conductor. Hankewich has also served as artist in residence at Park University from 1999-2002, artistic director/conductor of the Philharmonia of Greater Kansas City from 1999-2002 and interim director of orchestra studies at The University of Kansas.
In 2001-2002, Hankewich won the Geraldine C. and Emory Ford Foundation’s “Immersion in New American Music for Professional American Conductors” Award; during that same season, he was one of five conductors invited to participate in the American Symphony Orchestra League’s 2001 National Conductor Preview. He attended the University of Alberta, where he earned his bachelor of music degree with honours in piano performance under Professor Alexandra Munn, then studied with Dr. Leonard Ratzlaff and earned his master’s degree in choral conducting. He received his doctorate in instrumental and opera conducting from Indiana University, where his primary teachers were Imre Pallo and Thomas Baldner.
The music director search process began in November 2003 when Tiemeyer announced he would not pursue another contract with the CRSO. A 12-member music director search committee was then formed representing the CRSO board of directors, musicians and community leaders. In spring 2004, they had received over 170 applications from around the world.
Hankewich was not sure exactly what separated him from the rest of the applicants, but said that chemistry is an important consideration.
“That’s a very tough question. A lot of it depends on chemistry. I’ve witnessed conductors I admired greatly conduct different orchestras. Each orchestra has its own collective personality. Sometimes that same individual can be successful with one and not with the other,” Hankewich said.
Five music director candidate finalists underwent a two-week series of interviews that culminated with the conducting of a Masterworks concert during the 2005-2006 “Five Batons, One Podium” season. In February 2006 after all candidates had appeared in Cedar Rapids, the music director search committee collaborated to select the new artistic leader.
“We ultimately asked ourselves, ‘Is Timothy the best person to lead the CRSO into the future?’ and we answered ‘Yes,'” said Denny Redmond, chair of the CRSO music director search committee. “All five candidates were excellent and it was a difficult decision, but in the end Timothy Hankewich clearly rose above the other four.”
From the musician’s point of view, Jane Walker, CRSO principal flutist and member of the music director search committee commented on Hankewich’s musicianship.
“Hankewich provides new youthful energy on the podium, a new direction in terms of the development of the corridor and new ideas about programming which will hopefully have broad appeal,” Walker said. “He generated great respect from the musicians for his podium abilities and his congenial attitude. His joy in the glory of the sound, his infectious smile and his expressive and emotional gestures, all create an inspirational and uplifting experience for both the musicians and the audience.”
In the near future, Hankewich and his wife plan to relocate to the Cedar Rapids area.
“All prior professional commitments will be honoured and fulfilled by the end of August,” said Hankewich. “By then, I will be officially called a full-time Iowan.”
Hankewich said he does not intend any immediate changes, until he gets acclimated to the position.
“I hope to instill a renewed urgency and vigor in the way we represent and perform for our audiences. I am eager to alter thinking and perception that orchestras and the music they play are only for the elite. With bold thinking, action and brave experimentation, I know we will be able to attract and serve a diverse range of audiences,” Hankewich said.
He admitted that people have stereotypes about symphony and classical music, but believes if you work with the audience, you can help them enjoy the music more.
“Audiences love to learn, and people hate to be ignorant. If you offer content, an enjoyable explanation and interact with the audience, chances are they’re going to enjoy what you’re doing,” Hankewich said.
Hankewich will begin his inaugural season as the new music director in September. On the weekend, Hankewich was inducted on the Wall of Fame at South Peace Secondary School, one of our new inductees. It was an honour that was planned, he said, well before he got the job in Cedar Rapids.