The search for a new music director for the Venice Symphony was a two-year process that involved multiple candidates conducting the orchestra in concerts over the 2017-18 season. But the final contender—Los Angeles-based Troy Quinn—placed first. “Maybe my going last [in the concert season] was a good thing,” the 35-year-old Quinn quips. “It helped them to remember me.”
The decision may also have been based in part on Quinn’s versatility. He has the ability to move easily from one genre of music to the next and to think, as he puts it, “outside the box a little bit.” Although the coming season was programmed (by former Sarasota Orchestra artistic director Leif Bjaland) before Quinn was hired, he has made a few tweaks to reflect his desire to perform “music that everyone can relate to—classical, movies, and more,” he says. “I have been able to add some of my tastes, to put my stamp on it.” In Quinn’s world, works by film composers like John Williams or Danny Elfman and even a pop hit like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” mingle with more traditional programming, such as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
“I like to bring something both for seasoned concertgoers and new people who are hearing it for the first time,” he says. “Everybody loves classical music; they just don’t know it yet.”
Quinn didn’t take the most conventional path to conducting. While he was a vocalist at a young age, with a natural gift for pitch and rhythm, he didn’t read music until much later. And it wasn’t until his senior year of college that he conducted for the first time. “I got bitten by the bug,” he says, and he went on to earn his master’s from the Manhattan School of Music and his doctorate at the University of Southern California.
Since then, he has worked in opera in New York, conducted for numerous prestigious orchestras in this country and abroad, and worked in the TV and film industry in California. (He’s made appearances on Fox’s Glee, NBC’s The Voice and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, while recording on films including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)
Quinn estimates he’ll be spending 10 weeks or so a year here in Venice (he’s also music director of the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra in Kentucky, among other commitments), and he says he’s looking forward to it. “I fell in love with Venice, the natural beauty, and the musicians and the audience as well,” he says. “I love warm weather and the beach; I love boating and the soda shop on Venice Avenue. My fiancée and I are both active, outdoors people.”
With a five-year contract, Quinn also sees a great future for the orchestra. “For a town this size, there’s so much talent to draw on,” he says. “I believe it can be the premier orchestra on the Gulf coast.”