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Winston-Salem Symphony prepares for season with first female conductor

Michelle Merrill is changing the narrative of classical music, making it accessible to everyone.

WStoday_WS symphony first female conductor

Michelle Merrill conducting the orchestra band.

J Farley Photography via Winston-Salem Symphony

After an 18-month search, the Winston-Salem Symphony selected its first female music director.

Members of the symphony say Michelle Merrill blew away the crowd on stage during her audition for the role. Since taking the helm, she’s gotten to know the community during events like Art Crush in August, where she captivated 3,000 attendees with her music selections ranging from Mozart to a version of “Toxic” by Britney Spears.

Merill said her vision is to make music accessible to everyone."We want to break down that fourth wall and try to show that you don’t have to be dressed up in a tuxedo,” Merrill said. “Music is for everyone.”

The Winston-Salem Symphony opens its 2023-2024 season with a Classics Series concert entitled “Merrill Conducts Bernstein & Brahms.” She will take the podium as conductor for the first time on Saturday, Sept. 23.

WStoday_Symphony band

Winston-Salem Symphony band performs in front of an audience.

J Farley Photography via Winston-Salem Symphony

Audiences can expect popular tunes such as “Maria,” “One Hand, One Heart,” “America,” “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty,” and “Somewhere A Place for Us.”

“It’s going to be vibrant and happy, but also sad,” Merrill said.
Here’s what you need to know about The “Merrill Conducts Bernstein & Brahms” concert series.

  • Saturday Sept. 23, starts at 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 24, starts at 3:00 p.m.
  • Located at R.J. Reynolds Auditorium, 301 N. Hawthorne Road.
  • Tickets begin at $29 and are available by calling the Symphony Box Office at 336-464-0145 or online.

If you can’t contain your excitement ahead of the concert, the public has several opportunities to meet with Merrill and orchestra members throughout the week leading up to the concert.

The audience is invited to mingle with Merrill and orchestra members immediately following the Saturday performance at The Remedy Café & Bar, 429 West End Blvd.

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