Maestro Kim Allen Kluge, shown leading the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra at the city’s 2015 birthday celebration in Oronoco Bay Park, will conduct his final concert with the ASO on May 7 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall.
Photo by John Bordner
For 28 years, Kim Allen Kluge has held the baton for the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, his energy pulsing before signaling the opening downbeat for each performance. With his charismatic enthusiasm, he brought national acclaim to the fledgling community orchestra he transformed nearly three decades ago.
When he takes to the stage May 7, it will signal the end of an era as he conducts his final performance as music director of the ASO, a position he took over while still a doctorate student at the University of Maryland.
“There weren’t a lot of people in the audience back then but we came together for the joy of performing,” said Kluge, the young Korean American student with a vision for a world class orchestra in Alexandria. “But there was a magic here from the very beginning. I sensed immediately the enormous opportunity to create an organization that could serve Alexandra in a new and powerful way.”
In his second year, Kluge professionalized the ASO, and in defiance of skeptics, decided to perform at the Kennedy Center.
“It’s very gratifying to look back and see what the ASO has accomplished. I hope I have made a lasting contribution to the city that I love so deeply.”
— Maestro Kim Allen Kluge
“Some thought there was no way we could fill 2,800 seats,” Kluge said. “But we did. We got rave reviews and ended up performing a whole series of concerts at the Kennedy Center, which instilled a new kind of pride in the community and a new sense of possibilities for us.”
Over the years, Kluge contributed to the cultural fabric of Alexandria through his artistic leadership, a commitment to education and a strong connection to the local community.
In his first season, Kluge greatly expanded the educational offerings not only to school children but also to adults. The ASO became a national leader in arts education by integrating music with art, literature, mathematics history and social sciences.
Under his leadership, the ASO moved from the old T.C. Williams High School auditorium to its current home at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Center. Because of Kluge, the ASO has attracted high-profile guest artists including Branford Marsalis, Sarah Chang and Midori, who in 2012 selected Alexandria as one of only two communities in the nation to participate in her Orchestra in Residencies program. The Washington Post heralded this as “a major coup” for Kluge, the ASO and high school musicians in Alexandria.
In 2003, Kluge founded the Children’s Arts Festival, which tied public concerts and activities to in-school, curriculum-based programs. For Alexandria City Public School students, he developed mentoring programs and side-by-side concerts, which paired aspiring young musicians onstage with ASO professionals. In 2013, the ASO announced the Kluge Young Composers Competition to celebrate the emerging talent of composers age 18 and under in Virginia.
A valedictorian of Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Kluge pursued doctorates in piano and conducting from the University of Maryland and participated in the Tanglewood Music Center Conducting Program. In 2006, he received the Wammie Award for Best Conductor, given by the Washington Area Music Awards, bringing additional accolades to the ASO.
Under his music directorship, the ASO developed the first El Sistema-inspired program in the Washington, D.C., region, ASO Sympatico, which has been honored with a 2015 Yale Distinguished Music Education Partnership Award.
Kluge’s final performance with the ASO will feature a pre-concert chat with Kluge, his wife Kathryn Kluge, and pianist Thomas Pandolfi. The concert itself will feature the premiere of American Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, composed by Kluge and his wife, and Kluge will be honored as the ASO’s first Maestro Emeritus.
Following his tenure with the ASO, Kluge and his wife will continue to write scores for film and live performance, including the score for a film version of Eckhart Tolle’s “Milton’s Secret.”
Kluge was recently named music advisor for The Hollywood Film Festival and serves on the advisory board for Digital Hollywood. He is also the music advisor for CineCause, a global organization dedicated to filmmakers and change agents who want to have a positive social impact on the world.
“It’s very gratifying to look back and see what the ASO has accomplished,” Kluge said. “I hope I have made a lasting contribution to the city that I love so deeply. I truly have a sincere belief in the power of music to transform everyone's life.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.alexsym.org or call 703-548-0885.