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Atlanta Symphony welcomes only woman to head major American orchestra

With a level of high energy, enthusiasm and expression that captivates musicians and audiences alike, Nathalie Stutzmann is taking over the Atlanta Symphony.

ATLANTA — This is a historic time for the world-famous Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

It now has as its new music director and conductor, the only woman to hold this post at a major American symphony orchestra.

When Nathalie Stutzmann brings down her baton, she brings a level of energy, enthusiasm and excitement that electrifies both the orchestra and the audience.

She is a trailblazer but did not know she was even a candidate to take over the Atlanta Symphony.

“The only day I knew they were really interested in my work was when I was conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic and I saw a group of musicians from Atlanta and I said 'wow, they really are nice.' The American musicians, they are traveling all over the world to see people,” Stutzmann said.

And not long after, Stutzmann, a native of France, was offered the top job at the Atlanta Symphony.

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“It was very clear to me from the first visit they are true musicians. You can be an orchestra player, which doesn't mean you are a true musician, it means something else. You are starving to really share emotions,” Stutzman said.

“I want to make them the most expressive orchestra in the country. I want to make them super flexible and open to any crazy ideas in the way they express the music, of course,” she added.

Stutzmann knows that she sits in an historic spot.

“I realize how significant it is. I think it shows how nice and open-minded people are here in Atlanta," she said.

And for Stutzmann, diversity is a top priority.

“I am very sensitive to that because I am, myself, the diversity--being the only woman leading a major orchestra. I am part of that diversity, so I know that life is more difficult when you are out of the majority,” she said. “I don’t want to hire people for gender or color, I want to hire them because they are good."

And in talking about the diverse makeup of the Atlanta market, she said that “for the communities of African Americans, Asian, Mexicans and Hispanics, I try to show in my programs how important it is for me to include all people for as more people see diversity, the more diversity becomes not any more diversity, but a part of life.”

Stutzmann officially takes charge of the symphony with the start of the new season in October.

In addition to conducting major orchestras around the world, Stutzmann is a world-class vocalist, having already recorded more than 80 selections.

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