Philharmonic names new music director

A veteran Cincinnati-based conductor has been named new music director of the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic.

Isaac Selya, 37, who led the professional orchestra in its Nov. 19 concert “Taking Flight” as part of his tryout for the post, is based closest to Columbus of all six finalist candidates, though orchestra leaders say that wasn’t a factor in their decision. He will begin conducting concerts in the fall.

All candidates already lead several other ensembles, a common element among conductors. Selya, who currently leads Cincinnati’s Queen City Opera that he founded, will be introduced at Friday’s free SALUTE! concert at the Bartholomew County Memorial For Veterans on Second Street.

“We are delighted to have Isaac as a part of the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic family,” said Christopher Raskob, president of the orchestra’s board. “He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in programming a variety of music.

“His educational passion and outreach background will also be a wonderful asset to our growing learning opportunities provided within the community.”

He replaces Bloomington resident David Bowden, who served as a national award-winning music director and then artistic director since the orchestra formed in 1987. His impact ranged from actually piecing together the original orchestra in only two months to launching a music education program that other orchestra leaders have touted as a model.

Bowden still serves as artistic director of the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra.

Selya was overjoyed when reached Wednesday afternoon at his home.

In fact, he’s already putting together programming for the new season. He said that, ideally, he would love for one concert focus to tie into community mental health, long a huge issue, and one to link with architecture to relate to the Exhibit Columbus exhibition beginning in August.

He has successfully done such beyond-just-the-music tie-ins in Cincinnati.

“I had such a good experience with the whole (Columbus) community when I was there,” Selya said. “And I had such a good experience with he orchestra, which plays fantastically.”

Besides conducting in such far-flung locales as China, Selya’s resume includes extensive experience as a pianist, vocal coach, cellist and entrepreneur. Plus, his conducting work can be heard on the soundtrack to the award-winning video game “Masquerada: Songs and Shadows.”

He started his professional music career singing in the chorus of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale College, where he was principal cellist of the Yale Symphony and sang in Yale’s Schola Cantorum. He completed a master of music in Conducting at Mannes College and holds a doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He lives with three cats – Tosca, Aida and Tamino.

“He does now have the convenience of being so close (to Columbus),” said Donnie Robinette, executive director of The Philharmonic. “And we’re excited that he’s so close.”

Robinette said that could make it easier for Selya to mix within the community as Bowden did while serving as everything from a speaker to organizations to simply a well-known, promotional face of the ensemble.

The search for a new Philharmonic music director began in September of 2020, when Bowden, announced his intent to retire at the conclusion of the 2021-22 philharmonic season. A search committee was formed and 147 applications and resumes were received. The committee then had the task of reviewing all applications and conducting initial interviews.

The search committee, led by Peter King and 14 additional community members, recommended six finalists to the orchestra’s board of directors. Each of these candidates were given the opportunity to interview and program a concert during the just-completed, ticketed season.

Each concert was unique to the style of each candidate and allowed the opportunity for community members, musicians, and board members to interact with them during their particular concert week. Surveys were available to musicians and patrons to give their impression of each candidate.

About the leader

Name: Isaac Selya

Age: 37

Residence: Cincinnati

Other posts: Founder of Cincinnati’s Queen City Opera

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Yale College, where he was principal cellist of the Yale Symphony and sang in Yale’s Schola Cantorum; master of music in conducting at Mannes College; doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.