CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra has named Stephen Alltop its music director and conductor after a two-year search.
The fourth CUSO music director in the orchestra's 53-year history, Alltop has been the music director and conductor of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, founded in 1872, as well as the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra and the Green Lake Choral Institute.
Alltop, who was one of four finalists for the job, said he was attracted to his new post by the area's diversity of arts opportunities.
"Champaign-Urbana has a rich cultural life with a great university at its heart. I have known of the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra for many years, since I studied at the Aspen Music Festival with (former CUSO director) Paul Vermel," he said. "Of course, a great attraction for any musician is Krannert Center itself, undoubtedly one of the finest performing arts centers in the country.
"Having now spent a week in the area, I am very impressed with the people I met and their strong dedication to the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra and the community."
He said he was especially attracted to the orchestra.
"I like this combination of musicians quite a bit. It was such a pleasure to make music there with the orchestra for my 'audition, concert," Alltop said.
"I could not be more excited about the wonderful times we will enjoy performing great pieces from many periods. I favor thematic programming (programs united by distinctive themes), and hope to build the orchestra's audience and outreach."
He said he enjoys working collaboratively.
"I have always sought collaborations wherever I have worked and believe that many wonderful artistic endeavors will be forthcoming, particularly in the realm of choral-orchestral masterworks," he said.
Alltop was the associate conductor of the Peninsula Music Festival from 2000 to 2008. He has served as a member of Northwestern University's conducting and keyboard faculties since 1994, where he conducts the Alice Millar Chapel Choir and the Baroque Music Ensemble.
The CUSO is the professional orchestra in residence at Krannert.
"I am eager to begin working with Mr. Alltop as we develop plans on our 54th season," CUSO Executive Director Jeffrey Farlow-Cornell said in press release. "The CUSO is a great Champaign-Urbana cultural asset with a rich legacy, shown by the fact that we have just appointed the fourth music director in 53 years, and I look forward to that rich legacy continuing under the leadership of Mr. Alltop."
She said Alltop has built a career based on excellence in several disciplines, conducting orchestral and choral ensembles, and performing as a keyboard artist.
Alltop's predecessor, Steven Larsen, led the CUSO for almost 20 seasons before stepping down in 2012. For the 53rd season, the four "Classics" concerts were led by director finalists Farkhad Khudyev, David Commanday, Alexander Platt and Alltop; the holiday concert was guest conducted by Daniel Black.
Here is John Frayne's review of Alltop's turn conducting the symphony this season.