His three-year tenure begins June 1; he will direct the orchestra for seven weeks in 2006-07, and for 10 weeks in each of the following seasons. Hirokami was selected from a pool of 22 candidates considered during a three-and-a-half year search process, and will be the seventh music director of the 54-year-old Columbus Symphony.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the symphony board announced its intention to hire Hirokami in September, but the deal took longer than expected to finalize. The delay resulted from "'the definition of expectations" on the part of the orchestra and the conductor, board Chairman Fordham Huffman II told the Dispatch. "There were competing challenges on both sides of this contract, and this could have fallen apart," he said.
Hirokami, who was previously the principal guest conductor of the Japan Philharmonic, has decided not to live in Columbus, meaning he will be the first non-resident music director in the symphony's history, says the Dispatch.
The appointment marks the first directorship of an American orchestra for Hirokami, who was born in Toyko in 1958. He studied piano, musicology, conducting, and viola at the Tokyo College of Music. He began conducting professionally at 26, after winning the first Kondrashin International Conducting Competition in Amsterdam.
Hirokami made his operatic debut in 1989, leading a new production of Verdi's Un ballo in maschera with the Australian Opera in Sydney. Since 1990, he has conducted major European orchestras including the Concertgebouw and the Oslo and Stockholm Philharmonics; British orchestras he has worked with include the Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, and the BBC Orchestra.
He made his North American debut in 1996, conducting the Toronto Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Dallas Symphony.