By Rosemary Flores
In my 21-year history with the El Paso Symphony Orchestra (EPSO), I’ve seen three music director searches, two of which lasted two years, and over 20 talented conductors came to El Paso from all over the world to audition to be the EPSO’s music director.
I have also seen three conductors prevail during the search process: Gürer Aykal in 1992; Sarah Ioannides in 2005; and Bohuslav Rattay, our new music director, who came on board in May 2013.
The search is an arduous process for conductors and EPSO board and staff. The process typically attracts more than 300 applicants from around the world. The candidates, usually six to eight of them are chosen, are each asked to conduct and help program two weekend concerts. They have only one week to rehearse and convince the 70 to 80 members of the orchestra to follow their musical interpretation of pieces they have performed many times under different conductors. These hopefuls must meet and impress over 30 board members, shake hands with major sponsors, and wow the audience.
During Rattay’s one-week stay in El Paso in October 2012, the 40-year-old Czech Republic native managed to charm and impress members of the orchestra, board members, staff and audience. On May 5, 2013, the official announcement was made. Bohuslav Rattay was announced EPSO’s new conductor and music director.
Each conductor brings his or her own musical background, training, and ideas. What they lack sometimes is a strong knowledge of and familiarity with the city in which they will be working, not to mention the people they will be leading. Immediately, everyone had the feeling that Bohuslav would have no problem immersing him in the culture of our great city.
Bohuslav played bassoon from the age of 10, studied at the Conservatory in Prague for six years, played in an orchestra for 15 years, and is a graduate student of Rice University in Houston and the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore. And he’s a pretty good baritone singer!
He is very friendly and approachable and has an easy spirit about him. He has an open attitude and love for life, music and people. He enjoys hiking, riding his motorcycle and cooking. Though he also leads orchestras in Lake Charles, La., and Midland, Mich., he has decided to make El Paso his home and is currently hunting for a house to call his own.
This summer, Bohuslav will be in El Paso in to conduct his first concert as the new music director. Called “Pop Goes the Fort,” it’s a program of patriotic and pops music planned for July 4th at Biggs Park. Nashville’s sibling trio Shuggah Pies also will perform. This marks the third consecutive year that EPSO has teamed up with the USO and Fort Bliss’ office of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation to entertain military personnel and the general public on post.
Bohuslav, or “Bo” as most people call him, is also hard at work on creating what promises to be an exciting first season as the new leader of Texas’ longest continuously operating symphony orchestra. The baton has been passed. Bohuslav Rattay is ready to take it and lead EPSO and El Paso’s growing arts community confidently into a promising future.