For 2nd time in nearly 100 years, Youngstown Symphony hires female guest conductor

Local News

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On Sunday, Sept. 19, the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra will hold its first concert since the start of COVID-19. For only the second time in the orchestra’s 95-year history, the concert will be conducted by a woman.

Last week, Miriam Burns was named as the orchestra’s principal guest conductor. She’s currently the conductor of the Tysons McLean Orchestra in northern Virginia.

“I heard a performance of the Philadelphia Orchestra on tour in Columbus playing the Brahms Second Symphony. It was Leimsdorph conducting, and I just thought — I had to have been in the 10th grade by then — but I thought, ‘I have to do this for the rest of my life,'” she said.

Burns grew up around Columbus and started her music career on the violin. But in her mid-20s, she had an arm problem that limited her ability on the violin.

“I had to stop playing the violin. This made me rethink what I wanted to do, and had that devastation never happened, I would have never become a conductor,” she said.

As principal guest conductor, Burns will conduct three of the Youngstown Symphony’s eight concerts, standing in the spot where Randall Fleischer last carried the baton. Fleischer’s death a year ago caused the symphony to look at other options for a conductor.

Burns says she would love to have the job permanently.

“I’m so looking forward to the first concert coming up in just a couple of weeks. It’s very exciting. I’m anticipating what it’s going to be like with them and they’re anticipating, will they like me or not?” she said.

Burns is aware of the financial issues facing regional orchestras and can pinpoint how to make things better.

“I believe that the financial difficulties stem from the dismissal of the public school music education system. That is the root cause,” she said.

Burns says if students are taught music at young ages, their appreciation will carry into adulthood, and orchestras like the Youngstown Symphony could possibly prosper.

The Sept. 19 concert begins at 4 p.m. at Powers Auditorium in downtown Youngstown.

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