Dr. Christopher Swanson, associate professor of music at Longwood University, is the new conductor and artistic director of the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra.
Swanson’s appointment was announced July 16 at the Lynchburg Hillcats’ baseball game, during which he sang the National Anthem with the LSO’s brass quintet and threw out the first pitch. His will conduct the orchestra for the first time on Oct. 26 in the E.C. Glass High School auditorium in Lynchburg.
"Being a conductor has been a lifelong dream," said Swanson. "It is a thrill and an honor to be named the conductor of the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra. The last conductor was there for 30 years, so I’m looking forward to a long future with them."
Swanson replaces Bruce Habitzruther, the LSO’s only conductor since its formation in 1983, who retired in May 2013. The LSO performs four concerts each year.
"It performs a wide variety of symphonic repertoire, including some pop concerts, though it’s focused on a fairly serious symphonic repertoire," said Swanson, who has worked previously with some orchestra members.
Swanson wants to make clear that he is not leaving Longwood, where he has taught applied voice and song literature since 2003, and will continue all of his other professional affiliations. "This appointment is in addition to everything else. I’m just adding on," he said.
Swanson is the artistic director, vice president and cofounder of the Summer Garden Opera, which performs a concert every June, and the music director at Johns Memorial Episcopal Church, both in Farmville. He is the music director of the Opera Workshop, a course co-taught at Longwood with the theatre program every spring that includes a public concert.
A tenor, Swanson has performed leading roles in operas and numerous operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan, performed as a soloist in several Bach cantatas, and presented recitals across the country and in Canada and Italy. He specializes in baroque vocal literature, German lieder and the art songs of Benjamin Britten.
Many of Swanson’s relatives are or were musicians: teachers, instrumentalists and conductors. His parents are musicians, and his grandfather, Kenneth Jewell, was a longtime conductor who conducted at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Swanson’s native Michigan and also ran a professional chorale in Detroit for 20 years.
"Music is the family business," he said.