Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s fifth music director in its 93-year history, began his tenure in 2018.
In that time, he’s led the acclaimed orchestra through natural disasters and now a pandemic. Despite the difficulties that he and the orchestra have endured, Lecce-Chong is eager to keep working in the North Bay.
As 2020 comes to a close, the Santa Rosa Symphony and Lecce-Chong have agreed to renew his contract with the symphony for another five years following the completion of his current contract on June 30, 2021. The new agreement means that Lecce-Chong will continue directing and conducting in Sonoma County through at least June 30, 2026.
The renewed contract calls, pending continued pandemic restrictions, for Lecce-Chong to conduct six out of Santa Rosa Symphony’s seven annual Classical Series concerts along with several special event performances. Lecce-Chong will also continue his work in community outreach, representing the symphony off the stage as well as onstage at the symphony’s home, the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall.
“We could not have hoped for a more creative, collegial and inspirational artistic leader than Lecce-Chong,” Santa Rosa Symphony President and CEO Alan Silow says in a statement. “His renewed commitment to our orchestra, our young people and our patrons will serve as a beacon of light for years to come.”
Lecce-Chong’s commitment to the community was on display in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic canceled all of the symphony’s live concerts back in March. Faced with a social-distance dilemma, Lecce-Chong responded to the new reality by adapting concert programs to accommodate a smaller group of musicians, whom Lecce-Chong now leads in safe, virtual concerts as part of the ‘SRS @ Home’ series. Last month, the symphony presented an online concert to mark Beethoven’s 250th birthday.
in addition to conducting the performances, Lecce-Chong provides the virtual audiences with live pre-concert talks and post-concert Q&A sessions for each concert. He has also helped the symphony stay connected with its subscribers and wider community during the pandemic through his weekly “Thursday Night Live” events on Facebook and YouTube, in which he dives into specific classical music pieces with special guest composers and musicians.
“It’s truly an honor to have such an enthusiastic, skilled conductor, who is a champion of living composers and music education, as our Music Director for another five years,” Santa Rosa Symphony Board Chairman Al Seidenfeld says in a statement. “His vision and drive will take this orchestra to ever-increasing heights.”
Now maintaining a residence in Sonoma County, Lecce-Chong simultaneously serves as Music Director of the Eugene Symphony in Oregon. He also guest conducts around the world, and made his San Francisco Symphony subscription debut in the 2018-2019 season and his New York Philharmonic debut as part of the legendary Young People’s Concert Series in the 2019-2020 season.
“In my three seasons as (Santa Rosa Symphony) Music Director, this orchestra and community have shown an astounding creativity, grit and resiliency in the face of wildfires, smoke, power outages and now a pandemic,” Lecce-Chong says in a statement. “We have brought the joy and excitement of our music-making to more people than ever before through our virtual series. So, I am thrilled to continue making music with my brilliant colleagues on stage and grateful for the opportunity to lead us through these challenging times.”