credit: Vera Hartmann

The Verbier Festival today announced James Gaffigan as Music Director of its Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra (VFJO). Gaffigan will be only the second Music Director of the VFJO, after founding Music Director Daniel Harding, who served from 2013 to 2016. As Music Director Designate, Gaffigan is acting as advisor for the 2020 season and putting plans in place for 2021, his first as Music Director. The Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra is an international orchestral training programme consisting of 57 musicians aged 15 to 18. At each Verbier Festival it performs two symphonic concerts and an opera in collaboration with the Academy’s Atelier Lyrique singers. Musicians attend without having to pay for fees, accommodation or meals. Still less than a decade old, the VFJO has begun to provide a pool of talent from which musicians (aged 18 to 28) are chosen for the Festival’s well-established training orchestra, the Verbier Festival Orchestra (VFO). VFO alumni make up the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra(VFCO)—the Festival’s resident professional orchestra— and have taken up positions in top orchestras around the world. Gaffigan’s history with the VFJO goes right back to its beginnings having conducted the orchestra in its inaugural summer when it was known as the Verbier Festival Music Camp and has watched it evolve into a permanent and important fixture of the Verbier Festival Academy programmes. In advance of confirming his music directorship, he returned in 2019 to work with the musicians in preparation for their performances with guest conductors. Stephen McHolm, Verbier Festival Academy Director, commented:
“James Gaffigan is one of the most exciting conductors of today’s new generation of classical musicians. His dedication to developing young musicians is remarkable and makes him an ideal choice to lead the VFJO.”
James Gaffigan commented:
“I myself am a product of summer festivals and youth orchestras. I can’t stress how essential this is to the development of a young musician. The Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra is a perfect and safe environment for young musicians to develop and flourish to their fullest potential. I love teaching and sharing about what it means to play in an orchestra. My philosophy is that great orchestra playing and opera is chamber music in the grandest sense. These young musicians that make up the junior orchestra at Verbier are brilliant musicians and people who have every possibility in front of them. I am happy to now have my new ‘home’ at Verbier. I’m thrilled to be its next Music Director!”
Martin Engstroem, Verbier Festival Founder & Director commented:
“The qualities demanded of a Music Director of an orchestra made up of an international group of teenagers is manifold. It is not only about technical instruction, but about creating an inspirational environment where these gifted kids from very different backgrounds can thrive—both artistically and emotionally. Having closely followed James’s work with our orchestra I believe that we have found the right person. I am looking forward to further developing our wonderful Junior Orchestra together with him.”
Official release HERE.