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Expect works by underrepresented composers, says incoming director of Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic

The incoming musical director of the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic — an Alexandria-based non-profit — says that future concerts will feature women composers and composers of color.

Anna Binneweg was recently announced as the new musical director, beating a pool of 50 other candidates for the position. She will replace Alexandria Living Legend Ulysses James, who has been at the head of WMP since for 39 years and is retiring in May.

“I am thrilled and deeply grateful to the musicians, staff, and Board of WMPA (Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association) for choosing me to be WMP’s next musical leader in its 52nd season,” Binneweg said in a statement. “I want to also recognize the immense impact of outgoing Music Director Ul James, whose artistic vision shaped WMPA for almost four decades and paved the way for exciting new growth in the future.”

Binneweg guest conducted the 65-person orchestra in 2022, and said she is “looking forward to the powerful, transformative work we will do together in the coming seasons.”

For the last 15 years, Binneweg has been the musical director of the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra in Annapolis, Maryland. She has a doctorate in music and orchestral conducting from Northwestern University, teaches music at Anne Arundel Community College and was on the conducting faculties at Loyola University, the Sherwood Conservatory of Music and American University.

Binneweg’s last concert with the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra is on June 10.

“As music director it will be my goal to choose programming which serves the entirety of the VA/DC/MD area,” Binneweg said. “That means programming works by composers of color, female composers, creating new collaborations with local creative professionals, engaging high-quality guest artists while also promoting both WMP principal musicians and the Washington Metropolitan Youth Orchestra talent who will one day shape the future of our industry, and offering audiences a healthy dose of the ever-relevant ‘classics’ while also celebrating and cultivating the work of living composers.”

The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic performing for its 50th anniversary concert at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial on October 16, 2022 (via WMPA)

WMPA executive director Caroline Mousset said that the 2023/2024 season will be announced this June.

“I couldn’t be happier that we’ve found Anna to join WMPA,” says Executive Director Caroline Mousset. “During her concert in December 2022, I could already tell what a great match Anna would be for WMP. I’m convinced of her knowledge and confidence as a conductor and communicator, and her inherent understanding of musicians’ needs and experience. Anna has a wealth of inspiring ideas to take us forward, is enthusiastic about music education and WMPA’s role in the community, and has a true love of Alexandria. We are so excited to start working together!”

The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association, a nonprofit, was founded in 1971 and 1972 as the Mount Vernon Youth Orchestra and Mount Vernon Orchestra, respectively. James became director of both orchestras in 1984 after founder H. Stevens Brewster died in a car crash. The orchestras, which perform at the Lyceum and at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, were rebranded in 2004 to their current names — the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic and Washington Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (for high school kids). The Washington Metropolitan Concert Orchestra for middle school kids was added in 2008.

James will be honored by WMP at its season finale concert on May 20 at 3 p.m. at the ​George Washington Masonic National Memorial. The program includes a selection from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo” and Anthony Iannaccone’s “Waiting for the Sunrise on the Sound.”

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