Very personal orchestra

New Tacoma Symphony Orchestra leader getting to know Tacoma

By Jamie Forsythe on January 10, 2008

Andrew Buelow was happy living in Michigan, where he was the head honcho at the Traverse Symphony Orchestra. His family had a summer home in Traverse when he was growing up in Wisconsin, so he jumped at the chance to move there when the director position opened up at the symphony.

After six years on the job, he wasn’t thinking about moving anytime soon. That is until he got a call from Tacoma Symphony Orchestra’s Maestro Harvey Felder, whom Buelow worked with in Milwaukee, about the TSO executive director position being available. “I wasn’t looking to leave,” he says, “but I was ready for a change.”

He decided to apply and low and behold, he got the position. Buelow, who’s been on the job at TSO about six weeks, likes the feeling of Tacoma. “It reminds me of Milwaukee,” he said, with its port, industrial heritage and the renaissance taking place.

Buelow isn’t planning on making any radical changes at TSO. “Tacoma Symphony has a really strong base of subscribers who have a lot of pride in their orchestra,” he said. “They try to do a lot of different concerts” to appeal to a wide demographic.

Buelow would like to see more offerings for children and young people to complement what else is being offered in the community. “Every age group should be able to access the symphony in some way,” he says.

TSO does have a Simply Symphonic program for fifth graders, but Buelow wants something for parents with young children, 4-9 years old. “During that age group, the children are open to all kinds of things and interested in everything,” he says.

He’s contemplating some kind of 45-minute program for them, which would include an interactive aspect. Buelow said he wants to make sure that “young people have as much opportunity to study musical instruments as possible.”

Buelow, 46, doesn’t have much time to play in bands as he did in his younger days, but he likes to dabble on one of his seven keyboards whenever he gets the chance. He has a piano, three organs and three synthesizers.

After less than two months on the job, Buelow already has some lofty goals for the organization, including having every concert filled at the Pantages Theater and a large influx of new subscribers and single ticket buyers. “I want to make Tacoma Symphony Orchestra the hottest ticket in town,” he explains. Although he wants to maintain the accessibility of the orchestra’s musicians and maestro and keep the less formal nature of the concerts. Buelow described the Tacoma Symphony as “very personal.”

As far as Buelow’s personal life, he’s been married to the same woman for 10 years; they have two cats and are currently renting a home near Ruston. He’s still getting used to living by salt water as he grew up near the Great Lakes. The Buelows are looking forward to purchasing a new boat and getting out on the water once the weather warms up.

[Pantages Theater, next show: “Pops I — Tribute to Benny Goodman,” Sunday, Jan. 27, 2:30 p.m., $22-$75, 901 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.272.7264]