Following a widely celebrated start as Music Director of the San Diego Symphony, Rafael Payare will extend his tenure until at least 2026. His accomplishments with the orchestra have included a revitalization in programming, conducting the Symphony’s first ever free “Concert for San Diego,” the appointment of nine new musicians, and the launch of new digital initiatives like the exploratory “Listen//Hear” series and virtual performances.
“We are thrilled to have an additional four-year commitment with Rafael Payare as our music director as he will be able to continue the excellent work we’ve done together on and off the stage,” says Martha Gilmer, San Diego Symphony CEO. “Knowing that Rafael will continue to be with us, we have taken another important step toward securing a bright future for the San Diego Symphony. In the time he’s been with us, Rafael’s relationship with the orchestra and the community have propelled us forward, and the challenges of the current time have led to innovative thinking about the possibilities going forward. Rafael choosing to continue with us is a testament to the quality of the San Diego Symphony musicians and to the exciting things we have planned, which are unparalleled nationally. As we begin to imagine future programming, Rafael’s ideas of programming are expanding with the endless possibilities that The Shell™ will afford us. We envision great collaborative work that will inspire and bring together audiences from all over our region.”
“I’m excited to be extending our time together on this wonderful journey,” says Rafael. “I’ve loved every moment of getting to know the orchestra more deeply and growing together. I look forward to keeping the momentum of the past few years going and taking the audience with us on this musical voyage, which will include exploring repertoire and doing things on different scales and in different ways. It will provide the audience new opportunities to know the orchestra in greater detail. And when we are able, I can’t wait to continue working with schools and youth orchestras in San Diego and in Mexico, to build partnerships and create moments to share the stage together.”
Upon announcement of Rafael’s initial appointment, the LA Times lauded the Symphony’s decision and wrote that “he is electrifying in front of an orchestra.” He travelled to San Diego at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in order to be close to the musicians and staff, and since has worked with the orchestra in rehearsals and on recording. They have produced a tribute for front-line workers, broadcast specials, the musical conversation series “Listen//Hear,” and more. He is back on stage conducting San Diego Symphony musicians in staged drive-in performances of Puccini’s La bohème, presented by the San Diego Opera.
Since being awarded first prize at the Malko Conducting Competition in 2012, Rafael is celebrated as one of the most exciting conductors of his generation. In the 20-21 season alone, in addition to performances with the San Diego Symphony, Payare was scheduled to lead many of the world’s other preeminent orchestras including debuts with The Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Orchestre National de France. He is scheduled to conduct La bohème at the Staatsoper Berlin in April 2021, and return to the Philharmonia Orchestra in London with cellist Alisa Weilerstein. Other appearances in 2021 include concerts with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Dresden Philharmonie and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.