Victoria Symphony conductor Tania Miller to step down in 2017

Tania Miller will step down from the conductor’s podium at the end of the 2016-17 season, the Victoria Symphony announced Wednesday.

Miller said it was a difficult decision but it would be the right time in her career, as well as for the orchestra, for her to move on as music director. “This time period in Victoria has been such a rich and blessed time and I find it difficult to imagine leaving,” Miller said. “And yet I feel very much at peace that it’s the right time.”

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Miller will have led the Victoria Symphony for 14 years at the end of her term in August 2017. She will be named music director emerita upon her departure.

“It was a unanimous decision of the board to honour her in that way, and we hope to keep our association with her for a very long time,” said executive director Mitchell Krieger.

Miller became the first woman to lead a major orchestra in Canada when she was named music director in 2003. At 32, she was also one of the youngest.

Her strategy has been to bring new audiences to the orchestra, no matter their musical backgrounds, Miller said. “I wanted everyone to redefine what they think being part of a live orchestra experience is all about.”

But she also called reaching new ears the toughest part of her job. “One of my biggest challenges has been finding new ways to reach new and diverse audiences.”

Her strategy involved programming diverse styles of music, presenting them in a variety of venues and incorporating conversation with the audience into her concerts to make the experience more meaningful, she said.

She feels confident that she will leave the orchestra in a strong position.

“Now is the right time for them to transition to another music director, when they are healthy and strong, and yearning to continue working with someone great,” she said.

A search committee has begun work to find a replacement for Miller, Krieger said.

Miller said she will look for a conducting position with a new orchestra.

Miller’s strengths have included programming in a way that increasingly challenges the orchestra, as well as strong management and interpersonal skills, Krieger said.

The Victoria Symphony board is pleased that Miller has decided to stay on for the 75th anniversary season of 2015-16.

“She’s taken an orchestra that was a good orchestra and turned it into a great orchestra,” Krieger said. “Virtually every guest artist and conductor who comes here says they’re blown away. They say they are very, very surprised to hear an orchestra that can compete on any level, in a relatively small community.”

Miller said that with 31⁄2 seasons remaining, she’s looking forward to continuing to make great music. “I look back with pride over what we’ve achieved, but to be honest, I feel much more passionate and committed to what is left for us to do.”

asmart@timescolonist.com 

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