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The 2017-18 Season

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A Very SoNA Christmas 
December 16, 2017

Paul Haas, Music Director

Paul Haas was at the start of a promising conducting career when he devised and produced a concert project called REWIND in 2006, featuring composer and musician colleagues and violin soloist Anne Akiko Meyers. REWIND was a reaction against the staid nature of the standard classical music performance: audience members surrounded the performers, then left and started playing behind the audience on all sides. There were mirrored sculptures by Kate Raudenbush hanging from the ceiling, interacting in multifaceted ways with the subtle theatrical lighting design. Music started before the audience arrived, and it continued without pause – even between pieces – until after the audience left. A laptop artist injected samples of the orchestra and the audience into the texture.

The success of REWIND prompted Haas to found Sympho, an organization devoted to the creation and performance of symphonic experiences in unusual venues. One critic, writing in Time Out NY, called Haas 'visionary.’

 “As I reflected on these various creations, I found they went far beyond novelty, resonating deeply with my own ideas, with my search for meaning,” Haas says. The inspiration for Haas’ work comes from a wide array of spiritual and ecological sources, including a longstanding meditation practice and a deep connection to the Earth that finds Haas, along with his wife Suzette and two young girls, in the process of beginning an organic homestead that aims eventually to be self-sustaining.

One result of Haas’ immersion in this creative process is his emergence as a composer: over the last decade, fifteen commissions have come in from a wide variety of iconic venues, including the Park Avenue Armory and Rubin Museum of Art in New York, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the Anchorage Museum of Art in Alaska, and the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design in Arkansas. Haas is the first artist ever to receive two separate commissions from the Oliver Ranch Foundation in Sonoma County, California, creating installations for Ann Hamilton’s groundbreaking Tower. Haas explains why unusual venues figure so prominently in his output: “My work always celebrates space and our place within it. So many of us are disconnected from our surroundings, and it can be profoundly healing to become aware of – and even celebrate – where we are and how we fit in.” 

An equally rich part of Haas’ professional life is his service as Music Director of SoNA, a position he has held since 2011.  “I’m so proud of all we’re accomplishing,” says Haas. “When you look at the orchestral landscape across the country, it’s heartening to see examples of success – of true community engagement – like this one. It really is a unique situation.”

Haas is a graduate of Yale University and The Juilliard School, where he studied conducting as a Bruno Walter Fellow with Otto-Werner Mueller.   His other conducting teachers include Michael Tilson Thomas and Leonard Slatkin.  He also studied opera conducting in Dresden, Germany, at the Hochschule für Musik. Haas is currently Music Director of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.  He resides in Germantown, New York with his wife and two daughters.  Find out more at paulhaas.com.