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Ontario’s Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra Names Next Music Director

The French-born conductor James Kahane will take on the role as of September 2024 


The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra (HPO) has named James S. Kahane its new Music Director from the beginning of the 2024/25 concert season. He will succeed Gemma New, who served the role for nine years before recently stepping down at the end of the 2023/24 season.  

Kahane is currently the Principal Conductor (and founding member) of the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra, Principal Conductor of Orchestre de Chambre de la Drôme, and conductor of Finland’s Polytech Orchestra

HPO’s international search for a Music Director began 18 months ago and was guided by the members of a search committee, which included representatives of HPO musicians, Board of Directors members, the Executive Director, and the audience — including subscribers and donors. 

Kahane was selected out of seven shortlisted candidates from a total of 115 applicants. All HPO core musicians and staff members contributed to candidates’ feedback during the audition week, which included rehearsals, conducting the HPO in a mainstage concert, and a series of interviews. 

Dedicated to artistic excellence and vision, innovative programming, community engagement, and music education, Kahane’s new role will also see him champion Canadian artists and composers, new music, and commissions, plus continue the work of Gemma New in HPO’s concerts and community.  

Additionally, he will work closely with the musicians and staff to plan all mainstage and community programs, lead the growth and development of the orchestra, and represent the orchestra publicly.    

A graduate of the Sibelius Academy, Kahane studied with Sakari Oramo, Atso Almila, and Hannu Lintu; his other mentors included Paavo Järvi, David Zinman, Peter Eötvös, Matthias Pintscher, and Sir Roger Norrington, among others. In a 2020 theater release, Kahane was featured in a documentary revolving around three promising conductors of the Sibelius Academy. 

At the age of 21, he was appointed assistant conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra for their 2017/18 season, working with Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki. In the following years, he was invited to conduct the Baltic Academies Orchestra in their first international tour, plus was offered a conducting fellowship at the Atlantic Music Festival.

He has since conducted the Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse, Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Ostrobothnia Chamber Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, Jyväskylä Sinfonia, St. Michel Strings, Finnish Chamber Opera, and more. In Spring 2024, Kahane will be assistant conductor to Lintu at the Bayerische Staatsoper

Kahane will debut as the new Music Director of the HPO when he leads the ensemble’s 2024/25 season-opening concert on September 21, 2024.  

“With his extraordinary musical talent, profound commitment to artistic excellence, keen interest in music education and the vital role that the HPO has played for 140 years in shaping our region’s cultural landscape, James Kahane embodies the vision and values of the HPO. In him, we have found a wonderful conductor, musician and collaborative leader who can inspire our musicians and delight our audiences,” said Chair of HPO’s Board of Directors, Heather Beale in the press release

“I am honored to be entrusted with the musical leadership of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra,” Kahane expressed. “The growth of an orchestra is a continuous and exciting process and I’m privileged to succeed a long line of esteemed and talented colleagues that have brought the Hamilton Philharmonic to new heights. I’m looking forward to what the future holds, but more than anything, I can’t wait to make music together with the HPO again.” 

“James is an exceptional artist with great talent and energy. His enthusiasm for music and its ability to connect us really shone through in meeting him,” added Kim Varian, HPO’s Executive Director. “His approach to programming is innovative and his commitment to community engagement and music education speaks directly to our mission.”

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