By John Liberty
Kalamazoo, MI — Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra assistant conductor Barry Ross ['75 DMA] announced today he will retire from the organization after 40 years.
He became a music professor at Kalamazoo College and the Concertmaster for the KSO in 1972. Ross was named assistant conductor of the KSO in 1987.
He retired as Concertmaster in 2004 and from K-College as its Professor Emeritus of Music in 2006. Ross, who is also on the KSO's board, said he will continue to conduct through early February. Ross, 69, said his time with the organization has been enriching.
"I will truly miss conducting this excellent orchestra. The orchestra is people. It's composed of very dedicated, very hard working, extremely disciplined and competent artists. Every one of them. They give their all in the concert and our audience in Kalamazoo is very responsive to the quality of the orchestra," Ross said.
Ross will be busy with a trio of concerts this weekend as he is conducting the KSO for its performance with the Kalamazoo Ballet Arts Ensemble's presentation of "The Nutcracker" at Chenery Auditorium. His final concert is expected to be in February.
When asked if he'll become emotional during any of his final concerts, Ross said: "I have a concern. We're playing Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker' and there's one very emotional French horn solo toward the end of the first act. It's just a beautiful, beautiful solo. It's very slow and our horn player Mike Wood plays it so beautifully that I have to really make sure I stay on task and don't get carried away emotionally at that moment," he said.
Ross, who will turn 70 in February, said the timing seemed right for him to step down.
"It seems like all the stars are aligned for this announcement. I couldn't be happier about the wonderful memories I've had," he said. "Working for the symphony has been like play for me."
Ross said it was "thrilling" to conduct alongside some of the biggest names in music in Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Andre Watts and Leon Fleisher, who will return to Kalamazoo to play Ravel with the KSO on Feb. 28 at Miller Auditorium. He also noted the amount of joy he's experienced introducing youth to classical music as part of the KSO's educational outreach programs.
Among his major contributions with the KSO, he started the Family Discovery Series, designed to attract younger audiences, in 1990. The series continues today.
Ross, a native of Massachusetts, graduated magna cum laude from the Hartt School of Musice and earned a master's degree and a doctorate of musical arts from the Yale University School of Music.