Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra is calling its 2009-10 season, "Year of the Search." The organization is in the process of selecting a new musical director to replace Arthur Shaw, who stepped down from that position last year.

Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra is calling its 2009-10 season, "Year of the Search." The organization is in the process of selecting a new musical director to replace Arthur Shaw, who stepped down from that position last year.

"It's very eye-opening to see what people are doing with their orchestras around the country and what we can do here," said Cybele Abbett, who has been executive director of the symphony since 2007.

"We have five semifinalists. It's been a very intensive process with our committee. We had 160 applications and we took that down to 25. Then down to 13, then nine, then five."

A committee was formed to carry out the selection process.

"What was important to us was that the musicians had a strong representation on the committee," Abbett said. The artistic advisory committee includes seven orchestra members (elected by the orchestra), five board members (elected by the board), and two community representatives. To include comments from concert attendees, a survey will be distributed and collected at every concert and also will be available online.

"It was really amazing how qualified they were," Abbett said. "They have done a lot of interesting things in their present and past positions. We're more than a community orchestra. It takes a special person to fill the position and take us to the next step in our growth. Arthur took us a long way. He expanded our educational programs. It's about building on what he did here."

The committee will be particularly concerned with the applicant's relation to the orchestra as well as their vision of music in the Rogue Valley community and the symphony's role in that.

The five finalists will come in for a 10-day period. They will rehearse with the symphony four times and conduct three performances. During that time they also will get to know the area, the concert halls and learn what the job entails.

The season will include five concerts from September through April, each featuring a different finalist as conductor. The first set of concerts will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, in Ashland; 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, in Medford; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, in Grants Pass. Guest conductor Chelsea Tipton II will direct the orchestra with pianist Roberto Plano in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" and the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz.

The final selection will be made in June 2010, after the close of the season, with the intention that the new artistic director would start the next season in September or October.

David MacKenzie is serving as artistic advisor to the board of directors during this "Year of the Search." He has consulted with the artistic advisory committee to select this season's programs and guest artists, and he will conduct the Holiday Family Pops, My Funny Valentine, and A Day of Music concerts, which also are part of the symphony's 2009-10 season. McKenzie is music director of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts, founding music director of the Mastersingers by the Sea in Cape Cod, Mass., and resident conductor of the Rogue Opera.

See rvsymphony.org or call 552-6398.