Dawn raid: Houston grabs Detroit’s concertmaster

The Houston Symphony has hired Yoonshin Song as its concertmaster. She has held that post in the Detroit Symphony since 2012.

Houston has tried out 17 candidates since Frank Huang quit for the NY Phil three years ago.

Some may regard this a rich orchestra making an offer other can’t afford but the picture is probably more complex. Detroit is without a music director, a situation of some uncertainty for the next most important person in the orchestra. Houston offers stability, top soloists and high visibility.

Yoonshin Song will be guest concertmaster with Ivan Fisher’s Budapest Festival Orchestra laster this year. She’s in high demand.


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  • I used to live near Detroit. I didn’t know that Slatkin was no longer the regular conductor. Are they looking? As far as Soon is concerned, I was not underwhelmed with her work, nor was I overwhelmed. She was a very good violinist. But compared to other concertmasters I’ve known, I never felt she had a vibrant leadership.

    • So my question, muslit, is have you every played in a section under her leadership? Because if not I have to wonder WTF you’re doing commenting about her ability to lead a section.

      • My guess is “no,” since muslit didn’t even know Slatkin was leaving.

        My other guess is that “a vibrant leadership” refers more to dramatic movements and exquisite-torture facial expressions rather than sound quality, ensemble, and/or collaborating with the conductor.

      • I know people in the Detroit Symphony. I have been told. I am also a violinist and concertmaster, having worked with Sinopoli, Copland, and Bernstein, and Joseph Silverstein.

      • As an experienced orchestral player and concertmaster, I don’t have to play in a section under her leadership to know what kind of leader Soon is, having attended rehearsals with Slatkin conducting, and numerous concerts of the Detroit Symphony while living in the Detroit area. But she is a good violinist. And by the way, have you ever played in a section under her leadership?

    • Well… just like with any relationship, it depends on who you are and what each party is looking for. Most people, no matter their wonderful qualities, are not a good match for everyone. The same can be true of orchestras. I’ve known a few people who
      • regretted moving from a decent orchestra to an excellent one, or excellent to top-notch
      • were never happy until they made it to a Big Five-level band
      • were never happy no matter how many auditions they won

      …as well as a lot of people who made their peace with their situation and found fulfillment wherever they ended up.

      The analogy extends to relationships/ marriages too, obviously. It’s not always about finding someone richer or better looking: no matter how great a couple the rest of us think they make, they have to be able to live with each other.

      • Read the history of the DSO 2010 – 2014, and you might understand why a player would go to Houston.

        • Oh, I’m quite aware. Plenty of reasons there to go to almost any other orchestra.

          However, I also have a friend who won a job in Detroit, then won another job at least as good — probably better, as we mea$ure such things — but wasn’t happy and went back to Detroit.

          So I maintain that it’s a matter of individual choice.

    • …And unbearably hot weather and endless sprawl. Detroit still has its problems, but the city is really on an upswing these days. Presumably finding a new concertmaster will be top of the to-do list for Slatkin’s eventual successor.

    • “Texas has no State income tax”

      …hence it either raises money from taxing something else; or doesn’t provide any public services.

  • The previous Detroit concertmaster, Emmanuelle Boisvert, also left to go Texas, to Dallas. It was appealing enough that she accepted a position below concertmaster.

    It’s the weather.

    I’ve lived in the north and live in the south… one winter here and you don’t want to go back north.

    It’s true there is no state income tax, but the property taxes are insane.

    • At the time EB left Detroit, the orchestra was involved in a long lockout that threatened its existence. Principal cello and tympani left, as well. The resulting contract included roster size and wages, benefits.

  • The Houston Symphony concertmaster hiring process took three years. It involved more than 39 potential candidates, with 17 performing with the orchestra, some more than once. There was an exceptionally high level of applicants, with great care given to find the best fit for the position. Ultimately, Ms. Song was the unanimous choice of the music director and the orchestra audition committee. Congratulations and best wishes to Yoonshin Song and the Houston Symphony!

  • It is probably worth noting that Houston tried far more than 17 candidates- the search lasted more than three years, and encompassed some of the best violinists and leaders in the world. It was exhaustive and exhausting but a search like this is not just about finding a great player or leader, but finding someone who is both of those things and also the right fit for a particular orchestra and music director. Ms. Song came on last minute notice when another guest concertmaster fell ill. She was coming merely as a guest and was very committed to her orchestra in Detroit. She was not looking to apply for the position, but some of us can be very persuasive.. or at least very persistent.

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