The search for a new conductor of the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra has been narrowed to five finalists, all of whom will direct concerts and meet the community next season before a final decision is made in the spring.

The search for a new conductor of the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra has been narrowed to five finalists, all of whom will direct concerts and meet the community next season before a final decision is made in the spring.

The five candidates were chosen out of 160 applicants by a committee that included members of the orchestra. The committee chose the finalists based on their credentials and DVD recordings of performances as well as interviews, said RVSO Executive Director Cybele Grimes.

Each will spend about 10 days in the valley conducting concerts in Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass and meeting members of the music and arts community.

The committee's final choice will replace Arthur Shaw, who led the symphony for 22 years. The search began in January after he announced his departure.

The auditions will allow evaluations by audiences as well as scrutiny by orchestra and board members, whose opinions weigh more heavily than the public, Grimes said.

RVSO musicians and board members look for "above all, musicianship, but also community engagement, vision for music education in the region "¦ and ability to convey ideas to the orchestra, so they perform at the optimum level," she said.

Bruce Dresser of Ashland, who plays principal trumpet with the symphony and is on the search committee, said RVSO hopes the season-long audition process "will generate excitement and enthusiasm from the audience and involve them. It's an opportunity for input."

The finalists are:

Chelsea Tipton II, resident conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra in Ohio. He will be music director of the Symphony of Southeast Texas in Beaumont starting this season. Tipton has been guest conductor with major orchestras including the Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras.

Tipton will open the season Sept. 25-27, conducting Italian pianist Roberto Plano in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat, "The Emperor," and leading the orchestra in Hector Berlioz' "Symphonie Fantastique."

Martin Majkut is a resident of Tucson and his native Bratislava, Slovakia. He has been conductor of the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Slovak Sinfonietta and the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra.

Majkut will conduct Rhett Bender in Villa-Lobos' "Fantasia for Soprano Saxophone" and Terry Longshore in Ricardo Lorenz' "Pataruco: Concerto for Venezuelan Maracas and Orchestra" Nov. 6-8. He also will direct the orchestra in Mozart's Symphony No. 20 in D and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A.

Darko Butorac is music director of the Missoula Symphony Orchestra in Montana and the principal conductor of the 2009 Northwest Mahler Festival in Seattle.

Butorac will conduct performances Jan. 23-24 with violinist Catherine Manoukian from Toronto, performing Brahms' Concerto for Violin. C.P.E. Bach's Symphony No. 3 in F and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor are also on the program.

Peter Rubardt is in his 12th season as music director of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra in Florida, where he initiated pops, chamber orchestra, and family concerts.

Rubardt will conduct Feb. 26-28 when cellist Rhonda Rider from Boston performs Shostokovich's Concerto for Violoncello No. 1 in E-flat. Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World," is the featured masterwork for orchestra, and Haydn's Symphony No. 27 in G is also on the bill.

Kyle Pickett was music director of both the Redding and Chico Symphony Orchestras in Northern California. He conducts Alaska's Juneau Symphony, where in seven seasons he established an annual summer pops concert, a symphonic chorus and other programs.

Pickett conducts April 23-25, with Ukrainian-born Marina Lomazov playing Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor. Mozart's Symphony No. 23 in D and Brahms' Symphony No. 2 in D are also on the final program.

Dresser likened a successful orchestral conductor to a conductor of electricity in that "the music moves through a good conductor and he reflects it and is present in it in a way that gives you a feeling of what he is feeling."

"Music," added Dresser, "is an emotional language and he's taking you on a trip through the music. What I'm looking for is that he has to be a wonderful musician and there can't be any question about his musicality. He brings his own passion and gives you a clear direction of where the music is moving."

Season subscriptions and single concert tickets are available at the RVSO Box Office at 552-6398.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.