Mélisse Brunet thought she was just picking up a last-minute guest conducting gig in May, when she came to Lexington to lead the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra’s season finale concert. She was stepping in for the sixth and final candidate for the orchestra’s open music director job, who had to cancel his appearance and withdrew himself from consideration for the job. But Brunet was just coming to conduct, not to audition. “They did not consider me as a finalist, and I did not consider myself as a finalist, which is the best story ever, in my life,” Brunet said, Friday.[…]
That’s because everything changed when Brunet showed up in Lexington, and Monday, the Lexington Philharmonic announced that she will be the Philharmonic’s new music director, conducting her first concert in that role Oct. 22. Brunet will be the fifth music director in the Philharmonic’s 61-year history and the first woman in that role.
While everyone understood that Brunet was not a candidate for the music director post, McLeod said things started changing quickly once she began working with the musicians.
HOW BRUNET BECAME A CANDIDATE FOR THE CONDUCTOR JOB
“On Thursday, I started getting messages directly from musicians, and on Friday, about Mélisse’s qualities as a conductor,” McLeod said. “There was unprecedented response, spontaneous response from the musicians telling me that I needed to come and hear her and meet her, and that the search committee needed to reevaluate its position of not including her in the search.”
McLeod recalled one musician, very out of character, jumping out of his car when he saw her at the back door of the Singletary Center for the Arts, where the Philharmonic rehearses and plays most of its concerts, and running over to sing Brunet’s praises. And Brunet, was starting to get interested in the orchestra and Lexington as well. “Everything was so special,” Brunet said of the week, in which rehearsals started Tuesday for a Saturday night concert, May 21. “The musicians were really eager to play great music, and they wanted to do their best, and it was great teamwork at all times. They gave me a standing ovation at the end of the dress rehearsal … and I just could tell that we had a good rapport.”
“I’m happy that it went this quick,” Brunet said. “And it shows also how open minded they are and how quick they are at making good business decisions, because in the last year, I’ve had multiple places interested in me, but very few are able to make quick moves. And for me, that tells a lot about how healthy an organization is. “Too often our arts organizations are afraid of risk, but risk is art and risk is business.” […]
“On the podium, off the podium, those two things have to work together to bring out the best in the orchestra and the community. And I believe that Mélisse Brunet is that person — the right person at the right time for this community.”