Symphony Tacoma executive director leaves behind 10 years of Brahms and Pink Floyd

Andy Buelow has been executive director of Symphony Tacoma since 2007.
Andy Buelow has been executive director of Symphony Tacoma since 2007. Symphony Tacoma

Andy Buelow, the executive director of Symphony Tacoma for the past decade, is returning to his Michigan roots.

Buelow will become executive director of the West Michigan Symphony in Muskegon, Michigan, it was announced Friday.

Professionally, it’s a lateral move, given that the two symphonies are of similar size and budgets. The decision is more about returning to his roots, Buelow said.

Before taking the Tacoma position in 2007, he was executive director of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra in Michigan.

“I had 10 years of falling in love with Tacoma and falling in love with this symphony,” Buelow said. “And I remain passionate about it.”

His tenure began when longtime conductor Harvey Felder was at the helm. In 2014, Sarah Ioannides was appointed conductor.

“Andy has been a great partner,” Ioannides said in a statement, “and I feel fortunate to have worked with him over the last three years. He has helped set the stage for the next phase of artistic growth and community engagement.”

Buelow said the symphony is in good hands with Ioannides and called her artistic and creative.

“It’s an artistically vibrant organization under Sarah’s leadership,” he said.

The symphony’s board will begin looking for a successor “almost immediately,” Buelow said. He will continue in his current position through 2017.

Buelow said he strengthened the symphony’s fund raising and marketing and leaves behind a board that understands the symphony and its role in Tacoma.

“If I’ve left a legacy, I hope it’s that,” he said.

Symphony Tacoma has a $1.2 million annual operating budget and 84 core musicians under contract. It also has a 70-member volunteer chorus led by Geoffrey Boers.

The symphony often collaborates and performs with big-name artists and pop music stars. Past performance partners include trumpeter Chris Botti, singer Patti LaBelle and the bands Chicago and Cheap Trick.

In 2014, the symphony performed the music of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

“They didn’t go to Juilliard thinking they’d play ‘The Dark Side of the Moon,’ ” Buelow said of the symphony’s musicians.

Buelow leaves less than a year before Symphony Tacoma must leave its main performance venue, the Pantages Theater in downtown Tacoma, while it undergoes a year-long renovation, beginning in May.

“Tacoma is going to have a wonderful new arts center in 2019 and I’ll certainly be back to see that,” he said.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor