Gerry Catalano: BPO’s winning team never disappoints fans, Buffalo News

Rex Ryan, LeSean McCoy, Jack Eichel, Dan Bylsma – as usual the Bills and Sabres are grabbing all the headlines. But I think our other “team,” the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, has made the biggest moves this season.

Let’s start with Maestro JoAnn Falletta. She has been our music director since 1999 and has always kept this orchestra moving forward by taking chances and believing in her musicians. In addition, she is getting the BPO and Western New York national and international recognition via touring, recordings and commissioned works. Falletta is, without question, the reason why the BPO is thought of highly in the classical music industry.

Falletta has been in demand to go to a larger market, but BPO Executive Director Dan Hart was able to re-sign our “head coach” over the summer to a five-year extension. It’s no secret that many orchestras in the country are struggling financially, but the BPO has been miraculously keeping its head above water with Falletta’s and Hart’s leadership.

The BPO’s hire for a principal pops conductor for the first time since 2007 was a steal of a selection. John Morris Russell, the pops conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra (a post he will also keep), is a blockbuster of a “free agent” pickup. He is considered one of the best pops conductors in North America.

Russell conducted the BPO Pops last fall for the Matthew Morrison concert. He wasn’t actively seeking another conducting position, but he was so impressed with the BPO and the audience that he decided to apply for the opening. He is a high-energy personality who will bring life and vitality to the podium and give the audience more than its money’s worth.

The BPO is also bringing back a former member as an associate conductor. Stefan Sanders, a former trombonist turned conductor, was a member of the BPO’s trombone section for seven seasons. He was internationally renowned, having performed as a soloist throughout the United States, Asia and Europe. He’ll make an outstanding “assistant coach.”

The final position the BPO filled this season was the concertmaster or “quarterback” within the orchestra, the first violin. After a year and a half of listening and evaluating the available concertmasters, the BPO signed the sensational “free agent” Dennis Kim, who most recently served as concertmaster of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in Tampere, Finland. Kim was born in Korea, raised in Canada and educated in the United States.

At the age of only 14, Kim made his debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and was only 22 when he was first appointed concertmaster of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. At the ripe old age of 28, he was named concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the youngest in its 120-year history. He has been a guest concertmaster on four continents and has played as a soloist with most of the world’s top orchestras.

So, while the Bills and Sabres are grabbing most of the headlines, let’s not forget our other team, the BPO. I know one thing for sure: You will never leave a BPO concert without feeling that you won the “game.” As a season ticket holder, I know the impact the BPO brings to the region. Now is the time to support the BPO so it can continue to be financially secure for years and years to come.