Venezuelan Conductor Rafael Payare New San Diego Symphony Music Director

The 37-year-old Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare made an auspicious debut with the San Diego Symphony last month leading the orchestra’s opening program in its highly successful “It’s About Time” festival. The San Diego Symphony announced today that Payare will be its next Music Director, filling the vacancy left by maestro Jahja Ling, who retired in May 2017.

Rafael Payare [photo (c) Bjorne Bertheussen]

In his first concert with the orchestra, Payare conducted Roberto Sierra’s complex contemporary percussion concerto “Con madera, metal y cuero” with assurance and verve and followed it with a stirring account of Serge Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony.

In May 2012, Payare won first prize at the Malko International Conducting Competition sponsored by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and in July 2015 he was named Principal Conductor of Virginia’s Castleton Festival. He has been a featured guest conductor with major European and North American orchestras.

Payare came up through Venezuela’s noted El Sistema and studied with José Antonio Abreu, founder of El Sistema and teacher of Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Payare’s four-year contract with the San Diego Symphony has him serving as Music Director Designate from now until July 1, 2019, when he will assume full responsibilities as Music Director.

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