On Thursday night in Woolsey Hall, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra will open its 125th season, and the symphony orchestra’s music director, William Boughton will begin his twelfth and final year conducting the ensemble.

The program will include contemporary American composer TJ Cole’s “To the Universe,” Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” and Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s Violin Concerto in A Minor. The performance will serve as the orchestra’s annual “School Night at the Symphony” concert, at which the NHSO opens Woolsey Hall to local students, teachers and families.

“The twelve years have been challenging, tough and rewarding,” Boughton said. “I think that I have left the orchestra in a better place than when I found it. I think the orchestra has made huge strides artistically.”

Boughton is excited to open this performance with Cole’s piece, a New Haven Symphony Orchestra commission. He added that the repertoire was a mixture of both notable and unfamiliar music.

Boughton was hired to the role of music director in 2007. Since then, he has focused on performances of American music. He instituted and developed a composer-in-residence program, which allows contemporary composers to write and perform their own music. Boughton described the music that comes out of this program as the “life-blood” of the orchestra’s repertoire.

“Without new music, you’re merely a museum piece,” Boughton said.

Since Yale Symphony Orchestra Music Director Toshiyuki Shimada began a leave of absence for the 2018–19 academic year, Boughton temporarily has replaced him as the orchestra’s interim conductor. Boughton spoke of the Yale performers highly, describing the role as a “rejuvenating experience.”

Boughton said he will “see where the wind blows” after he leaves the NHSO. He plans to return home to the United Kingdom, where he hopes to help with the British Broadcasting Corporation.

The orchestra recently interviewed over 150 applicants for the soon-to-be-vacant role of music director. Three applicants — David Amado, Rebecca Miller and Alasdair Neale MUS ’85 — were invited to audition before live audiences throughout the spring. After a summer-long deliberation process, the symphonyorchestra’s Board of Directors chose Neale as Boughton’s successor.

“I’m thrilled and honored to have been selected as the next Music Director of the NHSO,” Neale said. “I’m eagerly awaiting the opportunity to make music with the phenomenal musicians of the orchestra, to serve the New Haven community, and to once again make my home in the city that so graciously welcomed me for the first time 35 years ago.”

Neale is currently the music director of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony in Idaho and music director of the Marin Symphony in California. The New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s Board of Directors President Paul Hermes said that Neale will continue the strong foundation Boughton has laid over the past 12 years.

“We are embarking on an extraordinary time for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra,” Hermes said in a press release. “The work of William Boughton and our musicians for the past decade has positioned this orchestra and this city to attract the finest musicians and artistic leaders in the world; Alasdair’s appointment is only the beginning.”

Morris Steinert and Horatio William Parker founded the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in 1894, making the orchestra the fourth oldest in America.

Nick Tabio |