'A dream opportunity for me': Elgin Symphony Orchestra names Chad Goodman its new music director

After a two-year search, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra has found its new music director.

Chad Goodman will lead the symphony's 74th season when it opens in October.

"The orchestra in Elgin has an extraordinary national and international reputation," Goodman said. "This is a dream opportunity for me to get to become a part of this community and make music here."

Goodman, 33, comes from the New World Symphony in Miami, where he served as conducting fellow from 2019 until accepting the ESO job. He's also served as assistant conductor for the San Francisco Symphony since 2018.

Seven of the eight finalists for the Elgin job were guest conductors last season; Goodman conducted the final shows on May 6 and 7. But last fall, Goodman made an under-the-radar visit to the season-opening concert to get a feel for the town.

"The music and the orchestra blew me away," he said. "Plus, everyone I was meeting in town was just so warm, and they were so proud of Elgin."

He said it was appealing "to me to be in a place where people took so much pride in their community."

Goodman will be the fifth music director in ESO's history. Andrew Grams concluded his eight-year tenure in August 2021.

Symphony CEO Marc Thayer said it was a unanimous decision for the search committee, which has four orchestra members, four board members and two staffers, including Thayer.

"Chad has very positive energy, enthusiasm and lots of great experience in other cities," Thayer said. "He's not just charming but able to talk to any kind of person, any age, any background, find a way to relate to them, and draw them in and make them want to be involved and make them want to come to concerts.

"His conducting won over the musicians very quickly."

Goodman said he was struck by how easy it was for him to work with the about 80 players with whom he had never worked before in the one week they had to prepare for their concert.

"It's like speed dating with 80 people at once," he said. "It's about how you build rapport and build these connections and get to the core of what needs to be done in a finite period of time, and I felt like we were all on the same page and were very open.

"There was an incredible responsiveness, and they were giving so much," Goodman added. "It felt like this really beautiful experience where we were just sort of all in the moment together.

"From the very start of my first rehearsal, it just felt right, is the only way I can really describe it."

Planning for next season is already well underway, with the soloists already contracted.

"I jumped on a moving train," said Goodman, noting that he's now involved in the discussions on filling in the gaps for five classic concerts he'll lead.

"It's happened in a very compressed time frame, which is wild, but it's exhilarating," Goodman said. "This whole next season is going to be about building this relationship and the orchestra getting to know me and me getting to know them and the community, so it's really nice that I have the opportunity to come in and sort of share some things that are already really, really special to me."

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