ORONO, Maine — Over the course of 114 years of great music, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra has had just nine music directors, from the first conductor, Horace Mann Pullen, who led the BSO from 1896 until 1920, to Xiao-Lu Li, who resigned last October after six years with the organization.

For the 2009-2010 season, the BSO will audition five conductors from all over the world for the position of music director, to replace Li. The BSO announced its picks for finalists Thursday morning at the Collins Center for the Arts on the University of Maine campus in Orono.

They are Lucas Richman, music director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra in Tennessee and a guest conductor during the 2008-2009 season; David Amado, music director of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra; Robert Franz, music director of the Boise Philharmonic of Idaho and associate conductor of the Houston Symphony; Michael Butterman, music director for the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra and the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra of Louisiana; and David Itkin, conductor of the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra.

“We received nearly 200 applications for the position,” said Joyce Clark-Sarnacki, chair of the search committee. “We spent 400 hours total going through every resume, making phone calls and doing reference checks. We came to a unanimous agreement on all of the choices.”

Sarnacki, BSO president Samuel Lanham and executive director David Whitehill were all in agreement that the pool of applicants was uncommonly strong, and that the five finalists were all more than equipped to lead the BSO. Concertgoers will be allowed a chance to meet the finalists, as they each will give a pre-concert lecture at the Collins Center at 2 p.m. before each 3 p.m. Sunday concert.

“They’re all so talented and versatile and had such strong applications, that they’re all excellent choices,” said Whitehill. “We are inviting our audience to give us feedback on each of the conductors after each of their concerts. We want to hear from people who really care about the orchestra. That will play a major role in our final decision.”

Sarnacki said that a new director would be chosen at the end of the BSO season in May 2010. All semifinalists were asked to write an introductory letter to the audience for each concert, and also were asked to help with the programming for each concert that they will conduct.

In addition to previously announced soloists such as violinist Stefan Jackiw, who will play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, and Chee-Yun and Alisa Weilerstein, a violinist and cellist, respectively, who will play the Brahms Double Concerto, a broad array of rarely performed choices was on the program. Whitehill said this season, which kicks off Sunday, Oct. 11, with Richman conducting, will be unusually vibrant and eclectic.

“They all come from different backgrounds, so it will really be a very exciting season,” he said. “We’ll be hearing things we haven’t heard in years. It’s really reminded us all about the music, in the end. It’ll be a great time for musical growth, for all of us, musicians and patrons alike.”

For the full schedule of Bangor Symphony Orchestra concerts, visit www.bangorsymphony.org.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.