Symphony N.H. selects Roger Kalia as new music director

  • Roger Kalia has been named music director of Symphony N.H. Courtesy of Symphony N.H.

Monitor staff
Published: 5/22/2019 3:29:31 PM

Symphony N.H. named Roger Kalia the new director of the orchestra at a Maestro’s Dinner on May 13.

Kalia was selected from a short list of candidates and asked to lead a trial run with the Symphony. He conducted a Mozart and Beethoven concert with the orchestra on Jan. 26.

The other finalists for the position were Lidiya Yankovskaya, Eric Garcia, Sameer Patel, Scott Parkman, Thomas Heuser, Enrico Lopez-Yanez, Stefano Sarzani and Yuga Cohler.

“I am thrilled to be the next music director of this wonderful orchestra, and I am extremely grateful to the dedicated musicians, staff and board of trustees for giving me the opportunity to lead this great organization,” Kalia said in his welcome letter.

In an interview, he said he is looking forward to moving back to the East Coast. He was born and raised in New York.

Kalia is currently music director of Orchestra Santa Monica, assistant conductor of the Pacific Symphony and music director of the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra. Due to previous engagements, he will conduct only half of this Symphony N.H. season.

Kalia plans to continue as music director of the Lake George Music Festival, which he co-founded with several college classmates nine years ago. It began with just three concerts during the festival. Now, there are more than 60 musicians performing two weeks of nightly concerts in different locations, such as churches, hotels, outdoor venues and auditoriums. He said it’s common for conductors to be engaged with multiple orchestras over the year and the Symphony N.H. season and Lake George festival have different seasons.

Kalia says he was not from a particularly musical family, but that his grandfather liked jazz. So in fourth-grade, Kalia picked up the trumpet. It wasn’t until high school when he went on a field trip to the New York Philharmonic to hear a Stravinsky piece that he became interested in classical music. Then, he had the opportunity to tour with a youth orchestra in China, the first time he had played with a full orchestra, and he was hooked.

Kalia holds degrees from Indiana University, the University of Houston and SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. Kalia met his wife, Christine Wisch, at the University of Houston; she’s a violinist and musicologist who is wrapping up her doctoral dissertation.

He originally went to college for music education and planned to be a band director. During his junior year of undergrad, he took a conducting course and competed in a conduction competition with the college band. He won.

Kalia said conducting felt more natural to him than playing the trumpet and he had more of a chance to connect and socialize with people.

“Being a conductor, you’re creating the music with the musicians,” Kalia said. The conductor is the member of the orchestra who can hear all the sounds at once.

He will open the Symphony N.H. season Oct. 5 and 6 with a program showcasing his affinity for warhorses and contemporary works: Chris Rogerson’s “Luminosity,” Johannes Brahms’s Violin Concerto and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.

“It’s performed so often because it’s a great piece of orchestration,” Kalia said of Tchaikovsky’s symphony.

This first concert is all about fanfare and celebrating the 96th season, he explained.

The opener will not be the only one where Kalia plans to mix old and new. In January, he plans to perform the New Hampshire premiere of “Ascending Bird” by Colin Jacobson and Siamak Aghaei with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in E-flat major

Kalia said he’s all about pairing new composers with great warhorse compositions.

As conductor, he’s also helping the Symphony plan its future concerts. He said they are already working on the 100th anniversary season four years from now.

On his wish list, Kalia is hoping to be able to commission a work by an American composer to mark the occasion.

“It is truly an exciting time in the history of Symphony N.H. to be welcoming a new music director,” said Symphony N.H. Executive Director Marc Thayer in a statement. “Our history is the base upon which we move forward, and so it is essential that the person standing in front of our talented orchestra musicians be able to build on that and expand our musical horizons.”

Kalia said some of the things he’s looking to expand on the venues that the Symphony performs in (this year they’ve added Manchester and Lowell, Mass., to Nashua and Concord stops) and grow the family concert series for children. He’s also hoping to do more pre-concert events, such as having a chamber group play in the lobby, or have post-concert talks with him or an orchestra musician.

Though based out of Nashua, Symphony N.H. performs several of its shows in Concord at the City Auditorium. During the 2019-20 season, local shows include Brahms & Tchaikovsky on Oct. 6 and Mendelssohn & Dvorak on March 8.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

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