The Asheville Symphony has renewed Music Director Darko Butorac’s contract for three more years, through 2027. Since his appointment in 2018, Butorac has brought his dynamic vision and artistic excellence to the Asheville Symphony, helping it realize significant growth and the addition of award-winning initiatives as well as celebrated community engagement events.

“I love making music with the Asheville Symphony,” said Butorac. “I am deeply appreciative of the incredible talent and dedication we have in our orchestra, and of the incredible support of the Asheville community. It is a joy to make music here, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity.” 

Butorac’s contract extension was a unanimous decision amongst the Asheville Symphony Board of Directors, musicians, and executive staff. “On behalf of the Asheville Symphony Board of Directors, I want to express how thrilled and happy we are to have a new three-year contract with Darko,” said President of the Asheville Symphony Board of Directors Sue Luther. “Through his creative musical vision he has brought our symphony to a masterful level of performance.” 

Asheville Symphony Executive Director Daniel Crupi says that he is particularly pleased that renewing Butorac’s contract came as a unanimous decision. “I spoke with every musician member of the search committee that originally hired Darko and each one believed that we should renew his contract,” said Crupi. “Everyone recognizes what an incredible asset Darko is to the Asheville Symphony and is thrilled to have him at the helm.”

Since Butorac’s appointment in 2018, the Asheville Symphony has expanded Masterworks and pops programming and added the ALT ASO series, which was awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. The organization has also worked to expand the biennial Asheville Amadeus Festival and last year added a new biennial initiative, Asheville Symphony’s Artist Residency, which embeds a world-renowned musician in Asheville for a week of educational and musical events. 

“Darko is an incredible artistic partner on every level,” said Crupi. “He is dynamic, engaging, creative, a brilliant musician, and excels no matter the repertoire. We are brainstorming unique performance concepts or bouncing new programmatic ideas off one another on a daily basis. Darko and I have already been planning major initiatives out into 2027 — so we certainly have some exciting plans in the works.” 

Last season, the Asheville Symphony relocated all shows originally scheduled for The Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, which was the home of the Asheville Symphony for nearly 50 years, when the facility experienced an HVAC failure that required long-term closure for repairs. Crupi says that Butorac was a major driving force of making last season so successful, despite myriad venue changes and unknowns. 

“Darko is one of the most artistically flexible conductors I have ever worked with, not just in terms of repertoire but also venue and vibe,” said Crupi. “He gives just as much conducting Mahler and Mozart as he does dressed up as Darth Vader for a Star Wars pops. He’s a consummate professional but also clearly has fun on the stage. That authenticity goes a long way with both musicians and audiences.” 

The Asheville Symphony has relocated the Masterworks Series to the First Baptist Church of Asheville for the next three years, and Butorac says that he aims to make the Asheville Symphony the premier acoustic music experience in Western North Carolina. 

“The phenomenal acoustics of the First Baptist Church of Asheville have transformed our orchestra in the last year,” said Butorac. “The audience experience is extraordinary — it is incredibly intimate, and every seat feels connected with the performer. And the sound! Glorious, ringing, full of color and resonance, with every line clearly heard. For the orchestra, it is such a positive change to be able to hear each other – it is more about making music together as opposed to just playing together.” 

Crupi says that what really stands out about Butorac is his commitment to artistic quality and passion for the repertoire. “Performances under Darko’s baton are incredibly organic and spontaneous. Even across two performances, the audience experience can be totally different,” said Crupi. “The musicians respond to this spontaneity in really exciting ways, which is a big part of the reason why the orchestra sounds better than ever. Darko also approaches the music with such joy — it’s hard for that not to be infectious for both musicians and audience.” 

For Butorac, the music he shares with the Asheville community has the power to create connection: “I think at a time when so much of our life is over-loaded with (often unhealthy) stimulus, to hear the symphony is not just an opportunity to witness a creation of a beautiful work of art, but a chance to unplug from the hectic and connect with each other in the beauty of music.”