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SYMPHONY SEASON

The maestro retires

Upcoming season will be the last for symphony director Lonnie Klein

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Make plans now to buy tickets for a special 2019-20 season of the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra (LCSO), because it will be the last for Maestro Lonnie Klein as the orchestra’s conductor and musical director.

Klein announced Aug. 9 that he will retire in May 2020, at the end of his 21st season with LCSO and after 36 years as a teacher and conductor.

“It’s time,” Klein said. “It’s a big step. It’s been my whole life.”

Klein moved to Las Cruces in June 1999 and plans to remain here after he retires. He will devote more time to playing the clarinet and plans to guest-conduct orchestras around the world.

He’s already conducted on 11 occasions in Italy (Klein’s favorite international destination), twice in Turkey, three times in Germany and in Colombia, Romania and Mexico. Klein has also raised his baton in various U.S. cities.

LCSO has “tremendously improved” during the past 20 years, Klein said. “The caliber of players that we have is pretty extraordinary for a city our size.” 

With the LCSO, Klein has conducted about 130 classics concerts over the years, plus many rehearsals. He’s also conducted about 30 pops concerts, which LCSO began in 2005, and he’s led about 120 pre-concert lunches, which will continue in the 2019-20 season at Paisano Café.

“That’s a lot of music,” Klein said.

Klein and LCSO teamed up with Tony-winning playwright Mark Medoff for live stage-symphony fundraising partnerships that led to classic productions of “Carousel” and “Annie Get Your Gun,” as well as the Medoff tribute, “Far from Finished.”

“At the maestro’s stand, Lonnie Klein has taken music in Las Cruces to new places, not just classical music – music,” Las Cruces City Councilor Greg Smith said. “Lonnie has exposed our community to exquisite sounds, musical emotions, and global experiences. He has taken music from the recital hall to the baseball field and to the plaza. Lonnie has been like a symphonic wind stirring our community and leaving us carried into new places. He will definitely be missed after the wind has calmed this coming year.”    

A native of Henderson, Kentucky, Klein knew he wanted to direct an orchestra since he was 10. He was a drum major at age 13 and has a bachelor’s degree in clarinet performance from Murray State in Kentucky, a master’s in music from Michigan State University and a doctorate in performance from the University of Illinois.

In addition, Klein has played the flute and saxophone professionally. In 2012, he received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Klein said it will be up to the LCSO board of directors to hire his replacement. “A lot of conductors would kill to have this position,” he said, noting that he was among 67 applicants for the job in 1999.

For more information, visit www.lascrucessymphony.com.

Mike Cook may be contacted at mike@lascrucesbulletin.com.

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