Carl St. Clair
Carl St. Clair

When audiences think of Pacific Symphony, they likely have one man in mind. Carl St. Clair has led the Orange County orchestra for 33 seasons — only the second music director in the group’s 44-year history — and he’s seen the ensemble through some of its biggest milestones. During his tenure, the Symphony moved into the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, committed to contemporary composers and opera productions, and made its Carnegie Hall debut to critical acclaim.

Now, another transition is on the horizon. The orchestra announced last week that St. Clair is starting to make space for a successor. While the conductor has extended his contract with Pacific Symphony through the 2023–2024 season, he has also asked the organization to begin the search for its next music director.

Crucially, 2024 is far from an ultimatum. St. Clair’s contract allows for further extensions, and the orchestra doesn’t plan on rushing the process. An official statement from the ensemble reads, “Until the Symphony has secured a successor, St. Clair will continue as music director. There is no specific timetable, and this will afford the board, musicians, and staff the freedom to assess potential candidates very carefully over time, allowing for a seamless transition.”

And even after handing over the reins, the conductor who’s made his mark with this orchestra is certain to stick around. “We know that Carl will have a significant role with Pacific Symphony for the foreseeable future,” said President and CEO John Forsyte.

SF Classical Voice spoke with St. Clair earlier this year and asked the music director what makes for a good match between orchestra and conductor. “Honesty of purpose — why you’re there and not somebody else — and trust,” he said. “These kinds of things are crucial. It’s no different than between people. [With these values] you have a chance of having a loyal and long relationship.”