Meet Lawrence Loh, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s new conductor.

There’s a new baton in town.

After a long selection process, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra has selected Lawrence Loh as its new conductor and music director. He’ll make his official debut on September 23 at the Clay Center in Charleston.

Loh, who grew up in southern California, fell in love with music early on. His mom was a violinist and encouraged her son’s musical development. He took piano, violin, and clarinet lessons and was voted “most musical” in high school. Although he started college as a pre-med major, “the music part of me just kinda took over,” he says.

He originally considered becoming a music theory teacher. Then, in his senior year, he took a course on conducting. He realized conducting was a combination of two things he enjoyed most about music—analysing it and performing it.

If you give sheet music to 60 or 70 musicians and ask them to play, “you would have 60 or 70 different interpretations of the music,” Loh says. “There’s so much in between the black and white.” It’s the conductor’s job to navigate that gray area to create a unified sound.

Loh followed his newfound passion to Yale, where he earned an artist diploma in orchestral conducting. He then began building an impressive resume, with conducting positions at the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the Syracuse Opera, in addition to guest conducting gigs all over the world.

He applied for the job with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra in June 2015, alongside 166 fellow hopefuls. Symphony officials winnowed down the field, and Loh found himself as one of six finalists. Each of the finalists conducted a try-out concert during the 2016 season so board members could gauge their chemistry with the symphony and the audience. Loh passed with flying colors and, in May 2017, the symphony announced he got the job.

At his September 23 debut, the orchestra will perform Bernstein’s “Candide Overture,” Gershwin’s “Piano Concerto in F” featuring guest pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine, and Copland’s “Symphony No. 3.”

Loh says much of the work in his first few seasons will be learning the orchestra members’ sensibilities. “It’s an exciting and fun process of discovery.”

photographed by Zack Harold

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