A Star for the ASO
For its 6th Music Director since 1961, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra has attracted a brilliant and energetic musician from Spain: an accomplished violinist and renowned conductor-teacher with extensive experience in the US and Europe.
Jose-Luis Novo was born in north central Spain, just north of Madrid, in Valladolid (Olive Valley; pop. 500,000), the original capital of Spain until the 16th century when Phillip II built a new capital at Madrid. Raised in a musical family, Novo describes his sibling position as “like a sandwich, with two older sisters and two younger sisters.”
Novo’s father, a pianist and music teacher, initially did not support his son’s desire to study music. Finally unable to deny the boy’s passion for music, his father permitted him to study solfege at 10 and violin at 13. Describing his as a late start for a musician, Novo has to admit that it didn’t take him long to catch up to other students at the conservatory of music in Valladolid, where he completed the degree of Profesor Superior de Violin, with honors in solfege, harmony, and violin.
At the age of 16 Novo left home to play in the National Youth Orchestra, the first of its kind and a pioneer in the field of Music Education. Then at 19 he left Spain to study in Belgium at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels on a scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. While touring in Spain as a violinist in another youth orchestra, he had his first experience as a conductor. In Galicia the conductor asked him if he wanted to conduct the Rosamund overture by Schubert. Novo recalls how that experience gave him the “conducting virus.” Becoming more serious about conducting, he recalls that, “The conducting took over and it went well.”
Continuing to study violin and conducting, Novo came to Yale University in 1988 as a Fulbright Scholar, and earned both a Master of Music and Master of Musical Arts. At Yale, he was honored with the Frances G. Wickes Award and the Yale School of Music Alumni Association Prize. In 1992, on a fellowship from the Spanish foundation La Caixa, he studied at the Cleveland.
Institute of Music, completing a Master of Music in Orchestral conducting, then concluding his conducting studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Considered one of Spain’s leading conductors, Novo was Assistant Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Emeritus Jesus Lopez-Cobos, and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra; he was Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Oxford (Ohio) Chamber Orchestra, and the Miami University Symphony Orchestra, Associate Conductor of the National Repertory Orchestra, Assistant conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Spain and the Yale Symphony Orchestra.
In addition, Novo has been guest conductor with the Windsor Symphony, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Principado de Asturias Symphonia Orchestra, the Cleveland Philharmonic, the Springfield (Ohio) Symphony, the Echternach Festival Orchestra at the Kennedy Center and on tour in Luxembourg and Germany, the City of Granada Orchestra, the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra and the Castilla y Leon Symphony Orchestra. Since 1999, he has been on the conducting faculty at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 2003 Novo was appointed Music Director and Conductor of the Binghamton Philharmonic in Binghamton, NY.
In July of this year Novo became the Music Director of the ASO after a two-year search process by an eight-member Committee that included the new ASO President, Indiana-born Lee Streby, who holds a Master of Music from Columbus State College in Georgia. Streby arrived just in time to participate in the process of reviewing over 200 applications and giving each of the six finalists an opportunity to conduct an orchestra concert in the 2004-2005 ASO season.
By the end of season, Novo was chosen by the committee who found him to be “intelligent and innately musical” with a “demonstrated appeal to musicians and audiences.” As Music Director, Novo is Principal Conductor, Artistic Director and Orchestra Advocate. Among other gifts, he brings a thematic approach to programming concerts, as exemplified by his first ASO appearance when he opened the 2004-2005 season with, “Music of the Gypsy World.”
Among the themes of ASO’s 45th season, the holiday concert in December will be a pops concert: A Maryland Capital Christmas, featuring Carolyn Black-Sotir, the Morgan State University Choir and the Maryland State Boychoir. The January concert, a birthday tribute to W. A. Mozart in honor of his 250th birthday, will include the ballet music from Idomeneo, the First Flute Concerto in G Major, with Marina Piccini as guest flutist, the overture from Don Giovanni, and his last Symphony, No. 41, the Jupiter. For symphony tickets, call the box office at 410-263-0907.
Novo plans to maintain his international and national profile through guest conducting and teaching. His plans for the ASO include designing programs that are part of a whole-season approach, continuing mainstream repertoire while introducing music that is unfamiliar, but excellent, and improving the level of playing.
As Music Director of two orchestras of similar size and budget, with a season of five programs in Annapolis and four in Binghamton, Novo spends 70 to 80% of his time between the two, but calls the Annapolis area home. He and wife Lori, a flutist from Boston, live in Arnold.
Annapolis is one reason Novo chose to apply for the ASO position. He finds the city to be charming, “Appealing, with lots to offer for its size. While both Novo and Streby value the strategic location of Annapolis in attracting audiences from major music centers in Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD., they like Annapolis because of the people.
Speaking for the board, Streby envisions the day when ASO is recognized as the best regional orchestra in the country. Speaking through the orchestra, Novo’s international experience, musical gifts and boundless energy can guide the ASO to that stellar level that is both thrilling and habit-forming for burgeoning audiences.