The Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra is actively engaged in a worldwide search for its next music director/conductor. SPO Board Vice-Chair Scott Lauretti is leading the search committee, which is comprised of prominent musicians from the orchestra, community advocates and active philanthropists, and leaders from the area’s arts and cultural organizations, according to a press release issued Monday.

The SPO, now in the midst of its 10th anniversary season, will bid farewell to conductor Peter Shannon in May, and continues to identify and recruit exceptional prospective successors, the release said. Talented artists from all over the world have expressed interest in the position, the release said.


The search committee is comprised of Philharmonic musicians Sinisa Ciric (violinist and concertmaster), Michael Daly (principal horn), Jeana Melilli (principal flute), and Kristen Spiridon (principal clarinet). In addition to her playing duties, Spiridon is a member of the SPO professional staff, serving as education and outreach coordinator. Renee Portell, a singer with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus, represents the institution’s vocal performers.

Accomplished leaders from local arts organizations on the committee include Allen Henderson, president of the American Traditions Vocal Competition, executive director of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and professor of music at Georgia Southern University; Roger Moss, co-founder and executive director of the Savannah Children’s Choir, and talented vocalist; and Dr. Monica Dekle, director of music and organist for Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church, and former chorus master for Savannah Philharmonic Chorus.

SPO board member delegates to the committee include Susan Whitaker, an active philanthropist; Nina Eidell, a longtime human resources executive and consultant; Rhegan White-Clemm, retired marketing executive and current SPO board chair; and Mel Whitehead, performing arts supervisor for the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.

World-renowned operatic baritone and co-founder of the Savannah VOICE Festival, Sherrill Milnes, serves as an advisory member of the committee, and SPO Executive Director Terri O’Neill is an ex-officio member. Lauretti, committee chair, is a successful business executive and entrepreneur, whose civic involvement includes stints as chairman of the board of the St. Joseph’s/Candler Foundations, president of the board of Horizons Savannah, chairman of the board of The MedBank Foundation, president of the Italian Society of Savannah, member of the Savannah Country Day School board of trustees, member of the board of Horizons National and member of the board of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Foundation. He is a current fellow with the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative.

The SPO has engaged Henry Fogel, one of the best known and most influential performing arts administrators in the U.S., as consultant to the committee, the release said. Among his professional achievements, Fogel led the League of American Orchestras from 2003-08, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association from 1985 to 2003, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C., from 1978-81.

The search committee is fiercely determined to attract and select an extraordinary artistic leader to shepherd the organization into its second successful decade and beyond, the release said.

“We have convened a dedicated, talented and diligent group of professionals with deep ties to and love for our community, to identify and secure an incredible new music director and conductor," Lauretti said. "The Savannah Philharmonic is our hometown orchestra, and we are fortunate to have such a fantastic cultural resource in our beloved city.

"Each member of this committee takes his or her responsibility very seriously. We will work doggedly to earn and preserve the public trust. Our cultural institutions are key differentiators for us when we compare ourselves with other cities. We understand the fiduciary gravity this truth implies, and we embrace the challenge to deliver a world-class artist and inspirational figure to our conductor’s podium and every site of our community outreach work.”

For more information on the Savannah Philharmonic, go to, call 912-232-6002 or email