The Verbier Festival has today announced the appointment of American conductor James Gaffigan as Music Director of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra, for festivals in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Becoming only the second Music Director in the orchestra’s history after founding MD Daniel Harding, James will act as adviser for the 2020 season and is currently putting plans in place for 2021, his first as Music Director.
Still less than 10 years old, the VFJO is an international orchestral training programme for musicians aged 15 to 18. Over the course of three weeks, the young musicians learn, rehearse and perform in Verbier and Le Châble, under the specialist guidance of experienced tutors and world-class conductors. The orchestra has now begun to provide a pool of talent from which musicians are chosen for the Verbier Festival Orchestra, whose alumni in turn make up the festival’s resident professional orchestra, the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra.
James’ history with the VFJO goes right back to its beginnings, having conducted the orchestra in its inaugural summer when it was known as the VFJO Music Camp, and he is hugely looking forward to working with the orchestra in this new capacity:
“I myself am a product of summer festivals and youth orchestras. I can’t stress how essential this is to the development of a young musician. The Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra is a perfect and safe environment for young musicians to develop and flourish to their fullest potential. I love teaching and sharing about what it means to play in an orchestra. My philosophy is that great orchestra playing and opera is chamber music in the grandest sense. These young musicians that make up the junior orchestra at Verbier are brilliant musicians and people who have every possibility in front of them. I am happy to now have my new ‘home’ at Verbier. I’m thrilled to be its next Music Director!”
Martin Engstroem, Verbier Festival Founder & Director commented: “The qualities demanded of a Music Director of an orchestra made up of an international group of teenagers is manifold. It is not only about technical instruction, but about creating an inspirational environment where these gifted kids from very different backgrounds can thrive – both artistically and emotionally. Having closely followed James’s work with our orchestra I believe that we have found the right person. I am looking forward to further developing our wonderful Junior Orchestra together with him.”
This exciting appointment continues James’ close relationship with the country and audiences of Switzerland, having been Music Director of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra since 2011. In that time, James has made a very significant impact on the orchestra’s profile, both nationally and internationally, with several highly successful tours and recordings.