Michael Bohnert Wheatley

Michael Bohnert Wheatley

MOUNT VERNON — Michael Bohnert Wheatley will join the Skagit Symphony as its new music director, the organization announced Monday.

“I’m pinching myself,” Wheatley said. “I couldn’t imagine anything better.”

Wheatley, who recently completed his doctorate at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, said he plans to give attendees new experiences as the symphony begins its 40th season.

“As a new director, I want all of that to land with a bang,” he said. “There’s no room for subtlety.”

Wheatley will move to the area in mid-August and begin his role soon after.

He succeeds Roupen Shakarian, who worked as the symphony’s music director for 14 years, said Marna Fletcher, executive director of the symphony.

She said a selection committee of symphony members, staff and community members considered 46 applications for the position.

“(Wheatley) brings us a bright future, a fresh perspective to our program repertoire,” she said.

As part of the hiring process, Wheatley and three other finalists each spent about six weeks conducting the orchestra, as a sort of audition for the job.

“We were firing on all cylinders from the first rehearsal,” he said. “It was amazing.”

Fletcher said in a volunteer community orchestra, chemistry between the music director and the musicians is essential.

“People don’t come to make music unless they’re enjoying it,” she said. “He won their hearts, and that’s the most important thing, really.”

In his time as a conductor, Wheatley said he has lived all over the country and is ready to find a place where he feels he can put down roots.

“I’ve been living all over the place, and I’m tired of it,” he said. “Frankly, I just fell in love with the Pacific Northwest.”

More information on the symphony’s 40th season will be available this summer at skagitsymphony.com, Fletcher said.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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