New symphony president looks to build

LAWRENCE PIERCE | Sunday Gazette-Mail
West Virginia Symphony Orchestra President Joe Tackett began his job May 19 and immediately jumped into the festivities surrounding today’s Symphony Sunday.

Joe Tackett’s first day on the job as the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s new president was May 19, and with Symphony Sunday today, his first two weeks were a doozy.

Still, he found time to do a question-and-answer session and a photography shoot, so this appears to bode well regarding Tackett’s time-management skills.

His selection came after a national search by the WVSO presidential search committee, a group composed of members of the board of directors, musicians and staff. He has been the executive director of the Reading (Pennsylvania) Symphony Orchestra since 2010.

Previously, he served as the executive director of the Lexington (Kentucky) Ballet from 2009 to 2010. He was director of education and musician services for the Lexington (Kentucky) Philharmonic from 2005 to 2009.

As a musician, he has performed with the WVSO, the Lexington Philharmonic, the New York-based Jupiter Symphony, New York Repertory Orchestra, Roanoke (Virginia) Symphony Orchestra, Richmond (Virginia) Symphony and on Broadway productions of “Jane Eyre” and “Kiss Me, Kate.”

Q: The WVSO is very beloved in Charleston and West Virginia, as is Maestro Cooper. How do you plan to help Maestro Cooper bring his musical vision to all of West Virginia?

A: The West Virginia Symphony is the flagship cultural institution for the entire state, and I look forward to helping Maestro Cooper realize his vision of bringing live, great music to the entire state. It is important for the symphony to continue its tradition of reaching out to all of the diverse populations of the area. Also, developing new business relationships and building personal connections to donors and patrons will be key to building on Cooper’s vision of artistic excellence.

Q: You have performed with the WVSO as a musician. How did that experience help you decide to apply for the job as president of the WVSO?

A: As our musicians are our greatest asset, I am aware of the amount of work and preparation that goes into each performance. For a typical two-hour concert, musicians have spent literally thousands of hours mastering their craft. I have an immense respect for our musicians, as I have been one myself, and marvel in the sound Maestro Cooper produces from the orchestra.

Q: Tell me a bit about yourself. What do you think readers would find interesting about you?

A: I have a 10-year-old daughter, Emilie, who lives in nearby Kentucky. I am ashamed to admit I spoil her. She has a battalion of American Girl dolls and her own iPhone. Please don’t judge me!

Q: What are you most looking forward to with the WVSO?

A: Helping to further build on the amazing successes of the past while looking toward the future. We have an amazing product. I want to help more people experience the feeling of the community you only get in a live performance of great music.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about living in West Virginia?

A: I love hiking and already have explored numerous trails. There is so much to do here!

Q: You have played as a musician for Broadway productions of “Jane Eyre” and “Kiss Me, Kate.” What instruments do you play? What is it like to play on Broadway?

A: I play the bass (the big tall fiddle). I was playing on Broadway about the same time I played regularly with the West Virginia Symphony. I was surprised to start gigging in New York and realize the level of player there was similar to the players we got in West Virginia. This place is really a magnet for great musicians!

Q: What advice do you have for young musicians regarding their music careers and careers that can blend with musical endeavors, like symphony administration?

A: Having a diversified education is the key to succeeding in any career. I wish as a college student studying music I had taken more education courses, more bookkeeping and taken piano more seriously. As freelance musicians, we are basically running a small business, and music schools need to better prepare the musicians of tomorrow.

Q: How did you see your previous administrative experience with other symphony orchestras helping you with your job at the WVSO?

A: I am familiar with the symphony industry as a whole and realize the challenges the field is facing. The wonderful situation here in Charleston is a bright spot in a gray industry. I am very excited about the energy and enthusiasm this area has for the symphony.

Q: How do you see the WVSO fitting into West Virginia’s musical heritage?

A: At 75 years, the WVSO is a key part of the rich musical heritage of the state. When you look at the incredible amount of talent that has performed with us, it is a key part of why the arts are so important to our area. Through our outreach and education programs, we are building the next generation of musicians, patrons and music aficionados.

The WVSO presents more than 50 concerts annually to audiences throughout the state. Programs include Capitol Conference Center Symphonic, ZMM Architects and Engineers Pops and City National Bank Family Discovery Series, performances by the Montclaire String Quartet, collaborations with the Charleston Ballet and other arts organizations in West Virginia, and a national award-winning education program. The symphony’s home is the Maier Foundation Performance Hall at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia. For additional information about the WVSO, visit or call 304-561-3500.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at or 304-348-1230.

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