Donald Munro

Sameer Patel will conduct Fresno Philharmonic as first music director candidate

Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez is the guest artist at the Fresno Philharmonic’s Sunday, Oct. 2, concert at Saroyan Theatre. Sameer Patel will conduct the concert.
Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez is the guest artist at the Fresno Philharmonic’s Sunday, Oct. 2, concert at Saroyan Theatre. Sameer Patel will conduct the concert. Jacob Belcher

When Sameer Patel walks onto the stage of the Saroyan Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 2, to conduct the Fresno Philharmonic, he’ll open a pivotal season devoted to an important endeavor: hiring the orchestra’s next music director.

Patel is the first of six finalists – five men, one woman – to visit Fresno for an extended job interview. Here’s a rundown:

The candidate: Patel is assistant conductor of the San Diego Symphony. (He was just promoted from associate conductor.) Prior to that he served for three seasons as associate conductor of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Philharmonic. He has appeared with a long list of orchestras, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Knoxville (Tenn.) Symphony Orchestra.

Education: Patel began his musical training as a pianist, according to his bio, and received both his graduate and undergraduate degrees at the University of Michigan, where he studied conducting with Kenneth Kiesler.

Honors: In 2013, Patel was one of six conductors selected by the League of American Orchestras for the Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview. This is an event with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra that showcases emerging and talented conductors to orchestra industry professionals.

Fresno program: Patel will lead the orchestra in Jonathan Leshnoff’s “Starburst,” a 2010 work. It will be followed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor and Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 in D major.

Guest artist: You’ll remember Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez, who appeared with the orchestra in 2013. She will play Mozart. She was recently praised by the New York Times as “compelling, elegant and incisive.”

Get to know the candidate better: Patel will join the orchestra’s Benjamin Boone in the pre-concert lecture at 2 p.m. And a post-concert reception in the lower lobby after the performance is open to all ticket holders.

Details: The concert is 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St. Tickets are $25-$79, www.fresnophil.org, 559-261-0600.

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