Detroit’s associate conductor gets her first music director post

Detroit’s associate conductor gets her first music director post


norman lebrecht

November 28, 2017

The Coastal Symphony of Georgia has hired Michelle Merrill to take over from its founding music director, Luis Haza.

Michelle, a Texan, is associate conductor at the Detroit Symphony. Her husband plays principal percussion in the Jacksonville Symphony.

They are going to have some commute.



  • Suzanne says:

    Actually the commute between Brunswick, Georgia – where the Coastal Symphony of Georgia is based – and Jacksonville FL takes 65 minutes, according to Google maps. Quicker than getting to Heathrow from central London.

  • margaret koscielny says:

    I was under the impression that Vernon Humbert, Cellist with the Jacksonville Symphony, was the first director of the Coastal Symphony.

    • Max Grimm says:

      It appears that neither Luis Haza, nor Vernon Humbert were ‘first/founding music director’ of the orchestra.
      From the Coastal Symphony’s website:

      “[In 1985] the BCO was incorporated and granted tax exempt status by the IRS. The new board of directors hired the BCO’s first professional conductor, Nicholas Palmer for a season of three concerts; Roger Born served as conductor from 1986 to 1993. In 1994, the organization was renamed The Coastal Symphony of Georgia (CSG) and Richard Suggs was hired as music director/conductor. Kermit Breen served in that position from 1998 to 2002 and Richard Larson until 2004.

      In 2004, Vernon Humbert took the baton and with new directives, initiatives and the addition of professional musicians to the community-based orchestra, brought the symphony to a higher level of maturity and musical accomplishment.

      In 2013, Luis Haza became music director/conductor and the symphony’s first official general manager, Jorge Peña was hired. Under their leadership, professional musicians from throughout the Southeast offer a classical music repertoire with a dedication to performing at the very best level possible for our community.”

  • Thomasina says:

    Bizarre. A few days ago there was a storm about the female conductors. But no reaction(not even Congrats!) when a woman gets her first music director post?

    • Bruce says:

      Maybe it’s becoming less of a thing. Maybe this is progress. (Gay weddings don’t make the front pages of newspapers any more either.)

      • Thomasina says:

        Yes. I will take it positively. I had a sad impression that after the big discussion, finally there is no one who cares about the female conductors…