This fall, the Yale Symphony Orchestra will begin a new era as adjunct Associate Professor of Music William Boughton assumes the role of YSO director. Boughton served as interim conductor for the 2018–2019 academic year, following the departure of Toshiyuki Shimada.
“It was my year as the interim music director that inspired me to want to join full time,” said Boughton. He added that what excited him most about the YSO was “the enthusiasm, ability, spontaneity and … the love of the orchestra from its membership, its students.”
Boughton studied cello at the New England Conservatory, London’s Guildhall School of Music and Prague Academy, then played in London with the Royal Philharmonic, BBC and the London Sinfonietta. Boughton began conducting in 1980, when he formed the English Symphony Orchestra. He has since guest conducted major orchestras around the world, including the San Francisco, London and Helsinki Symphony Orchestras. Boughton became music director of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in 2007.
Boughton said that he plans to take a “very different artistic path” from his predecessors at the YSO, including diversifying the orchestra’s repertoire and giving YSO members “a greater sense of ownership.”
Epongue Ekille ’21, this year’s YSO president, said that the ensemble will include music by women composers in all of their concerts from now on. She emphasized the significance of that change. “That doesn’t happen in orchestras,” she said.
YSO manager Brian Robinson, who has been with the orchestra since 2003, agreed.
“It seems that this year, in addition to an interest in making great music, there’s a particular focus in our mission and efforts to be a more inclusive orchestra,” Robinson said.
The orchestra will also record pieces by five female composers this spring, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of women at Yale and the 100th anniversary of the suffrage movement.
“I think it’s very important that we embrace diversity in every genre, in every program, in the orchestra itself,” Boughton said. “We’re creating a university orchestra of the 21st century.”
Boughton also plans to diversify the repetoire’s music styles. In March 2020, the YSO will hold its inaugural weekendlong Contemporary Music Festival.
Students will now be included in selecting repertoire for such festivals and performances. Ekille said that Boughton established a “programming committee” of student members of the YSO to advise and inform the orchestra’s music selection. She described the committee as a “platform to make the orchestra our own.”
Ekille said that in addition to all of the structural changes to the orchestra, she is also excited about Boughton’s influence on their performance level.
“At first we were a little skeptical because he changed a lot of things that we were used to, but after a couple of weeks we found that we sounded way better than we had ever sounded before,” Ekille explained. “The intensity level was definitely heightened last year, but it’s great because we’re sounding incredible.”
The first concert of the YSO’s 54th season will be held on Saturday, Oct. 5.
Lindsay Daugherty | firstname.lastname@example.org .