Topilow to lead Firelands Symphony

SANDUSKY Firelands Symphony Orchestra officials say a prominent Cleveland conductor is in tune with
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



Firelands Symphony Orchestra officials say a prominent Cleveland conductor is in tune with the orchestra's needs.

Orchestra officials announced Thursday they've picked Carl Topilow, 61, conductor of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, as the new music director and conductor of the Firelands Symphony.

Topilow, who sometimes plays a red clarinet as he leads theCleveland Pops Orchestra before big crowds at Severance Hall, was introduced at a Thursday press conference at the orchestra's offices.

The new conductor's wife, Shirley Morgenstern, is the co-founder of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra as well as the orchestra's president and CEO. She saidSandusky is getting a conductor who loves all aspects of music.

"Carl loves conducting, he loves teaching and he loves people," she said. "With that combination, you're going to have a sure-fire hit."

"We appreciate having someone who has had long-term success in his field," said Ann Voight, chairwoman of the symphony's search committee.

Topilow will begin work July 1 under a three-year contract. Terms of the contract weren't disclosed, but Firelands' executive director, Jamie Steinemann, said Topilow's salary will be less than $50,000.

While the new conductor'sbest-known gig is conducting the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, he also has conducted classical music concerts for many orchestras, including frequent concerts at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Topilow, who beat out three other guest conductors, led the Firelands Symphony in a Oct. 6 concert at the Sandusky State Theatre thatfeatured Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4, Elgar's "Enigma Variations" and Sibelius' "Finlandia."

Steinemann said Topilow's proximity and ties to the local music scene were a plus when the orchestra board made its decision. When Topilow led the orchestra last fall, he brought along student musicians from the Cleveland Institute of Music to beef up the string section.

After each guest conductor came to Sandusky, the orchestra polled musicians, the community and orchestra officials for their reaction. "He scored very highly in all categories," Steinemann said.

Besides conducting and rehearsing the orchestra, Topilow will be asked to attend board meetings as needed, meet with donors and sponsors, speak to service organizations and visit schools.

During Topilow's visit to Erie County last fall, he demonstrated that he's a "great public speaker" with a good sense of humor who connects well with the audience, Steinemann said.