Michael Palmer to head south from WSU

8:29:22 PM CDT - Thursday, June 17, 2004

By Shannon Littlejohn

When Michael Palmer conducts Mahler's 4th Symphony in the WSU Symphony Orchestra's summer concert June 29, it will be his last appearance on stage as director of orchestras for WSU's School of Music.

Palmer will be leaving Kansas for Georgia, where he has been hired as director of orchestras for Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta.

Palmer, who was music director of the Wichita Symphony from 1977 to 1990, has been at WSU since 1999, first on a temporary basis then assigned permanently in 2002 as an associate professor.

"As has always been the case, there's a lot of potential at the School of Music at Wichita State," he says. "They're fortunate to have a full and complete orchestral faculty, and people who are full-time professional players."

In Atlanta, Palmer will move into an advanced orchestral program, and his is an endowed position. In addition, his time in Atlanta as associate conductor for its symphony early in his career means that ties to the community are already in place. But he wishes WSU's program well. He's hopeful that the appointment of new dean of fine arts Rodney Miller ensures good times ahead.

Palmer's impact on students who have studied with him has been incredible, says Wes DeSpain, a 1984 graduate of WSU's master's in music education program who returned to WSU two years ago to study conducting under Palmer. DeSpain has played E-flat clarinet for Wichita's symphony since 1983.

"I played under him when he was the symphony conductor," says DeSpain. "I was always impressed by his intuitive approach to music, but it's really been insightful to work with him on conducting. He has taught me how to understand the music from a structural standpoint."

DeSpain, who has served as WSU's orchestra manager for the past year, says Palmer's vast knowledge of orchestral repertoire is especially impressive.

"It's really been an incredible opportunity for me to work with Michael Palmer," he says. "It's kind of a dream come true in a lot of respects."

In addition to Palmer conducting the Mahler piece, which will feature soprano Charlene Ayers, DeSpain will conduct Brahms' Academic Festival Overture, and Whitney Reader will conduct Strauss' Rosenkavalier Suite for the summer concert.

The WSU Symphony Orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 29, in Miller Concert Hall, Duerksen Fine Arts Center. Tickets are available through the College of Fine Arts Box Office at 978-3233; hours are noon-5 p.m. weekdays.

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