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Musicians will be happy with the conducting quality and depth of experience of the six finalists for conductor and music director of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, the search committee chairman said Wednesday.

Jim Gallagher, chairman of the search committee, said the finalists were chosen on the basis that any of them would be great conductors for the symphony.

"They are really phenomenal candidates, experienced with lots of conducting experience, well-trained and very knowledgeable musically," Gallagher said. "It's an unbelievable group of finalists."

The finalists named Wednesday include two Yale University-trained musicians, a Yale music professor, an Israeli conductor and an artistic director for the San Francisco Lyric Opera. They all currently conduct orchestras.

Two finalists have already conducted the La Crosse orchestra - one as a finalist 14 years ago and another as guest conductor in 2007.

Derek Clark, principal cellist for the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra and one of six musicians on the conductor search committee, said all the finalists are tremendous musicians, and their conducting style is clear and expressive.

"Any one of them is capable of doing a tremendous job and building on all the good things Amy Mills has done with this orchestra," Clark said. "We're looking forward to performing next season with them."

Each finalist will conduct a concert during the 2009-10 season for his audition. The new conductor/music director will take over the orchestra during the 2010-11 season.

Gallagher said the search to replace Mills, the orchestra's conductor for 14 years, attracted 250 applicants.

The finalists:

The six finalists for conductor of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra:

EDUARDO ESPINEL (October 2009 audition concerts)

Eduardo Espinel was appointed music director and conductor of the Greater Erie, Pa., Youth Symphony Orchestra in September 2005. Born in Venezuela, Eduardo studied trumpet and conducting at Brevard College, Baylor University and Yale University. He has appeared as a guest orchestral conductor with the Amarillo Symphony, Canton Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, Brevard Chamber Orchestra, Southern Arizona Symphony, Waco Symphony Orchestra, Branford Messiah in Connecticut, and has been active in Connecticut and Georgia as a guest choral director and trumpeter.

In 2006 he made his international conducting debut with the Daejeon Philharmonic Orchestra in Korea. During the 2006-07 season, Espinel served as cover conductor with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and during the 2004-05 season with the Fort Worth Symphony. As a Yale conducting fellow, Espinel served as conductor to both the Yale Philharmonia and the New Music New Haven concert series. He currently resides in the Atlanta, Ga. area with his family.

TOMASZ GOLKA (November 2009 audition concerts)

Tomasz Golka, who lives in New York City and Texas, studied conducting with David Effron at Indiana University and Gustav Meier at the Peabody Conservatory. He also holds bachelor's and master's degrees in violin from Rice University. He was a conducting fellow at the Aspen Music Festival in 2002 and has conducted in masterclasses for such distinguished conductors as Yeri Temirkanov and David Zinman.

Golka is music director for the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra. Positions held in the past by Golka include music director of the Ball State Symphony Orchestra and Opera and the Bakersfield Youth Symphony (2003-04), Founder and Artistic Director of the Chamber Music at All Saints (2000-02) and the Bloomington Chamber Orchestra (1998-99), and, as a violinist, Concertmaster of Spoleto USA Festival Orchestra and the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra (1999-2000).

TOSHIYUKI SHIMADA (December 2009 audition concerts)

Toshiyuki Shimada has been music director of the Yale Symphony Orchestra of Yale University since 2005. He is also music director laureate of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, in Portland, Maine, for which he served as music director from 1986 to 2006. Prior to his Portland engagement, he was associate conductor of the Houston (Texas) Symphony Orchestra for six years, beginning in 1981.

Shimada has a fine pedigree, having studied with Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, Herbert Blomstedt, Hans Swarovsky and Michael Tilson Thomas. Currently he holds a teaching position at the Yale University, as associate professor of the Yale School of Music and Department of Music, and resides in the suburb of New Haven, Conn., with his wife Eva Virsik, a concert pianist, and their 16-year-old son.

BARNABY PALMER (January 2010 audition concerts)

In 2002, Barnaby Palmer was named artistic director of San Francisco Lyric Opera and has since conducted over 20 new productions with that organization. He has served as guest conductor for Opera San Jose and Livermore Opera. In April 2008, Barnaby will be music director for Opera San Jose's production of Mozart's "Die Zauberflote." He has studied conducting with Alan Gilbert, Rossen Milanov, Larry Rachleff and most recently Michael Morgan. Palmer currently resides in San Francisco.

YARON GOTTFRIED (March 2010 audition concerts)

Conductor, composer and pianist, Yaron Gottfried is one of the most prominent musicians of the young generation in Israel - a multidisciplinary musician who bridges classical, jazz and contemporary music. Since 2002, he has held the position of music director and principal conductor of the Israel Kibbutz Orchestra. Gottfried studied at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem under Maestro Mendi Rodan.

He served for seven years as professor for conducting and music studies at the Rimon School for Contemporary Music and at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy of Music. Gottfried is regularly invited to conduct and to be featured as a soloist with all of Israel's top orchestras. His guest conducting appearances are widely varied including orchestras in Budapest, Argentina, Potsdam, Vancouver and in La Crosse with the LSO in 2007. Currently Gottfried lives in Israel with his wife and children.

ALEXANDER PLATT (April 2010 audition concerts)

The newly appointed music adviser and principal conductor of the Boca Raton, Fla., Philharmonic, and now celebrating 10 years' involvement with the Chicago Opera Theater, Platt is forging a unique, adventurous career among the younger American conductors. Building on his work as apprentice conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Platt is now entering his second decade as music director of both the Waukesha Symphony in Wisconsin and the Marion Indiana Philharmonic, and he recently completed a 12-year tenure as music director of the Racine Symphony Orchestra. Platt has guest conducted for several U.S. and international symphonies. Born in New York City, Platt was educated at Yale University, where he was resident conductor at the Yale Center for British Art and graduated winning most of the major music prizes. Platt resides in Chicago.

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