Strickler to leave symphony at end of season

By The Mercury

TOPEKA—John Wesley Strickler has announced to the Topeka Symphony Society Board of Directors he will step down as music director and conductor of the Topeka Symphony at the end of the 2011-2012 season.

During his 22-year tenure, the TSO has evolved from an all-volunteer community orchestra to a professional regional ensemble with performances in communities throughout northeast Kansas. 

He also implemented an active educational program through which annual School Day concerts are played to more than 4,000 students.  

TSO also gained new recognition in the community in 2006 when the opening concert of the Topeka Symphony’s 60th anniversary season, featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, was televised by KTWU TV, for which the station received a Telly Award. 

In 1998, Strickler was a recipient of the Kansas Governor’s Arts Award in recognition of his contribution to the cultural life of Topeka and northeast Kansas.

“John has been an extraordinary leader in developing the Topeka Symphony and its associated youth programs to their current high levels,” said Mike Lennen, president Topeka Symphony Society Board of Directors.  “For the arts community in Topeka and throughout the state – and especially for those who love the Symphony – he has been a source of strength and inspiration, and we have been the fortunate beneficiaries of his talent and dedication.  The upcoming season of the Topeka Symphony will provide an opportunity to honor and celebrate his many contributions.  We will also be able again to enjoy some great symphonic music performed under his direction.  John has created a wonderful legacy, and our ongoing challenge will be to continue to build on this legacy.”

Strickler has held appointments and served as guest conductor with various orchestras.  During one of his guest conducting appearances, Strickler stood on Dvorak’s podium for a performance of the “New World Symphony” with the North Czech Philharmonic in Dvorak Hall in Prague’s Rudolfinum. 

He also led the South Bohemian Chamber Philharmonic in a program of Haydn and Mozart in Vienna’s Kaisersaal, and he spent three weeks in Romania conducting the Philharmonic Orchestras in the cities of Ploieste, Bacau, and Brasov. 

In 1999, Strickler guest conducted the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra in Biloxi, Miss., resulting in his appointment as Music Director and Conductor, a position he holds concurrently with that in Topeka.  Since his appointment, the GCSO has also experienced considerable artistic growth and renewed interest. 

Singers and instrumentalists alike praise Strickler’s work as an accompanist.  Izhak Perlman and Frederica von Stade found him to be a very sensitive and most accommodating conductor. 

Over the years Strickler has enjoyed performing with such distinguished artists as Larisa Elisha, Steven Elisha, Julius Kim, Brian Lewis, Richetta Manager, Jon Nakamatsu, Arthur Pizarro, David Shifrin, Wendy Warner, Andre Watts, the Canadian Brass, and Five By Design.

A native of New Glarus, Wis., Strickler received his bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Wisconsin.  He earned his master’s in conducting and PhD in theory from the University of Southern California.

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