Conductor Chelsea Tipton II will open the Rogue Valley Symphony's 42nd season with a program of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. Five and Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" Friday, Sept. 25, in Ashland.

Conductor Chelsea Tipton II will open the Rogue Valley Symphony's 42nd season with a program of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. Five and Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" Friday, Sept. 25, in Ashland. Tipton, who lives in Texas, is one of five guest conductors vying to become the music director and conductor of the RVSO beginning next season.

The symphony has announced a 2009-2010 season of five series of concerts. Each series will feature a different guest conductor. After the season the symphony will announce which one has won the job. The pool started with 160 applicants.

"It's an evaluation process," says RVSO's Cybele Grimes. "It gives us that opportunity to spend time with them. Each one will be here 10 days. They'll rehearse, visit schools, meet people. We get to see how they operate. Being a music director is a lot more than just being a conductor."

Concerts in the first series are set for 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, at the Music Recital Hall of Southern Oregon University in Ashland; 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater in Medford; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, at the High School Performing Arts Center, 830 NE Ninth Street, Grants Pass.

Students may receive free tickets to the Medford and Grants Pass shows. Ticket vouchers have been given to area schools and music teachers, and also may be obtained by going to www.rvsymphony.org and visiting the Education Programs link (for more, call 552-6398).

Tipton recently completed his tenure as the resident conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra in Ohio and is beginning his first season as the music director of the Symphony of Southeast Texas in Beaumont. He has appeared with many major orchestras in the United States, including those in Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Houston, San Antonio, Atlanta, New Jersey, Brooklyn and Miami's New World.

"He's very passionate about what he does," Grimes says. "Very interested in music education. From what I've seen, he works with the orchestra efficiently. It's been enjoyable."

The program Tipton will conduct features the fifth and last piano concerto Beethoven composed, completed in 1810 when the great composer was 39 years old. The name "Emperor" was not Beethoven's. It was tagged onto the work by a friend, the composer Johann Baptist Cramer. The work debuted in 1811, in Leipzig, Germany, the only one of Beethoven's piano concertos not performed at its premiere by the composer, who by then thought his growing deafness was affecting his playing.

Renowned pianist Roberto Plano will return to the Rogue Valley to play the concerto. Plano has performed throughout North America. He won the prestigious Cleveland International Piano Competition in 2001 and was a finalist at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2005.

Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" was composed and first performed in 1830 but revised extensively between 1830 and 1855. It tells the story of a young artist who has visions of his beloved under the influence of opium.

Each movement represents a vision. Considered a Romantic masterpiece, "Fantastique" is the work with which Berlioz is most closely associated.

The symphony will present Tipton in an interview format at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, in SOU's Music Recital Hall. The interview will be conducted by Pat Daly and will cover Tipton's life as a director and the music of the upcoming concert series.

Tipton will give pre-concert talks an hour before each performance.

The symphony's box office (552-6398) in the Music Building of Southern Oregon University is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Ashland ticket prices are $33 and $40' Medford tickets are $26 and $33; and Grants Pass tickets are $23 and $30. A limited number of $10 economy seats are available in Medford and Grants Pass. Student tickets are $5 at each venue.

Visit www.rvsymphony.org for details on the Year of the Search.