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Harada takes the reins at Savannah Philharmonic 

Previous experience in the state keeps Georgia on his mind, he says

MAESTRO Keitaro Harada, a renowned musician who most recently served as Associate Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops, was announced as the new Music & Artistic Director for the Savannah Philharmonic in its 2020-21 season.

Harada has roots in Georgia, having spent time as Assistant Conductor of the Macon Symphony Orchestra. That played a big part in sparking his interest for the job.

“Exactly 144 days ago, on March 1, I was conducting in Taiwan and received a call asking if I would be interested in stepping at Savannah Philharmonic for their April 6 concert,” Harada said at a July 23 press conference announcing the hire. “I had a conflict on April 6, and I rarely cancel a prior engagement for a new opportunity.”

click to enlarge PHOTO BY GEOFF L. JOHNSON
  • Photo by Geoff L. Johnson

He decided to cancel his other engagement to fill in at Savannah Philharmonic, and explained that his love and appreciation for Georgia—as well as the opportunity to work with famed jazz pianist Marcus Roberts—prompted him to take the gig.

From there, the opportunity arose to interview for the Music & Artistic Director position.

“After leaving Georgia in 2008, I always wanted to give back to this state. Finally, this opportunity has arrived,” he said.

“I truly believe it’s fate that my first ever Music & Artistic Director position with a professional orchestra is in the state of Georgia. I couldn’t have written this story for myself. There’s no perfect word or phrase that describes how excited I am for today, and for the future of the arts in the city of Savannah.”

Mayor Eddie DeLoach appeared at the press conference, praising Harada and calling the announcement a “big day for Savannah.” He also stressed the importance of having a dedicated venue for the orchestra in town.

“I think we need to begin with the idea of, ‘How do we really go about developing a place like [the hall] Charleston has?’” DeLoach said.

“It’s something that I feel like we should have. Something that we can develop. I don’t know how long it would take, and I don’t know how we would do it. But I’m sure there are a lot of minds in here that have that idea.”

While no formal plans or ideas have been confirmed or announced, the press conference marked perhaps the first time a City offical had mentioned or acknowledged the need for a purpose-built orchestra venue in Savannah.

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Sean Kelly

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