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George Hanson, Conductor Laureate

“Conductor George Hanson, protégé of Leonard Bernstein, clearly inherited his mentor’s expressive talents: dynamic energy flowed through his fingers as he conducted the Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice.” (Nice Matin, July 2014)

As George Hanson prepares to take his final bows as Music Director of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, it is fitting to reflect upon an extraordinary twenty-year relationship with the orchestra and the community of Tucson.

“What an honor it has been,” said Hanson, “to be part of such an exemplary team of musicians. Night after night, in more than a thousand concerts, we poured out our hearts and souls, together, for our audiences in Tucson. I can imagine no greater privilege.”

In 1995, Hanson took over a TSO program on short notice. “I was serving as assistant to Kurt Masur at the New York Philharmonic at the time,” Hanson recalls. “The exciting music making, and the mid-winter Tucson weather, made quite an impression.  I recall sitting on a patio, high in the Foothills overlooking the city after the final concert, thinking it was too bad they’re not looking for a conductor here.” Six weeks later, the TSO announced its search, and Hanson became the first applicant.

Together with his colleagues, both onstage and off, Hanson helped build the TSO from a respected regional orchestra into one of national and international recognition—culminating in TSO’s first-ever CD recording, garnering praise from critics around the globe. The orchestra’s well-deserved reputation for artistic excellence helped attract esteemed musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Lang Lang, Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman and others to share the stage with Hanson and the TSO.

Under Hanson, TSO has established a profile as the flagship performing arts organization in Tucson’s rich cultural community. Commitments to education, audience development, community outreach and civic involvement have been hallmarks of his tenure.

Hanson has conducted more than 100 major orchestras around the world including New York, Berlin, Hamburg, Warsaw, Budapest, Osaka, Seoul, Johannesburg and Paris. His work has earned an Echo Klassik award for best recording in Europe and a triple platinum award in the U.S. for a recording with the rock group R.E.M.

“I will always be grateful to TSO and to Tucson,” said Hanson. “It has been a wonderful place to raise my boys. Tucson will always hold a special place in my heart. To my colleagues onstage, and to all those who make it possible for Tucson to support this great organization, I say thank you, thank you, thank you!”