Hillard out as symphony conductor

Guest conductors will work with the Symphony until a permanent replacement is hired, officials say.

ALBANY, Ga. — Claire Fox Hillard, conductor of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, will not return to his job following his arrest this past August in Camilla, symphony officials announced Monday.

Karen Allen, executive director of the Albany Symphony Association, confirmed that the executive board met and voted “not to bring him back in January.”

Hillard had been suspended through the end of the year for his arrest on loitering and prowling. He was apprehended by officers in Camilla wearing only a towel that he had borrowed from a Camilla resident who let him use a phone to call police. Hillard reported initially that he was attacked by two black men, but police determined that story was fabricated to hide a sexual encounter behind a closed business that was disrupted when police responded to a prowler call at the location.

Allen told reporters that the board decided last week not to reinstate Hillard “after re-evaluating the climate following the incident.”

“After thoughtful consideration of the symphony’s future, the board decided it in the best of the symphony to part ways with Claire Fox Hillard,” Board President Holland Wright said.

Hired in 1987, Hillard was the symphony’s first full-time conductor and music director and directed the symphony’s first concert at its permanent home at the Albany Municipal Auditorium during a gala concert featuring Ray Charles in 1990.

Hillard was also the conductor of the Meridian, Miss., Symphony Orchestra. He resigned from that organization earlier this year, following his arrest.

The move to let Hillard go comes just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Peppermint Pops, the symphony’s signature Holiday event, which is set for Saturday.

Guest Conductor David Hoose will take the baton for the Peppermint Pops, Allen said.

Hoose is a professor of music and director of orchestral activities at the Boston University College of Fine Arts. He serves as music director of the Cantata Singers & Ensemble and is former music director of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra.

He has appeared as guest conductor with the Saint Louis Symphony, Utah Symphony, Singapore Symphony, Korean Broadcasting Symphony, Quad City Symphony, Handel & Haydn Society, Boston Symphony Chamber Players, Emmanuel Music, and with the orchestras of New England Conservatory, Shepherd School of Music, and Eastman.


KaosinAlbany 3 years, 11 months ago

At least there is one board in Albany that has some common sense unlike the City Commission regarding Judge Weaver returning to work.


whattheheck 3 years, 11 months ago

What can you say--self destruction in this case. There is a limit to how dumb one can be and he crossed way over the line all the way to "stupid". No one but him to blame on this one and a late but good decision by the Symphony.


Albanite 3 years, 11 months ago

C'mon Herald- how about some actual journalism to demonstrate why your "newspaper" should cost 75 cents? Who was this "woman" that Hilliard was supposed to meet? Do you just reprint whatever you are told without investigating it?


daisymae 3 years, 11 months ago

It doesn't matter if he picked up a prostitute, he should have kept it in his pants (well should have kept those on too). It is ashamed that he threw away a career for trying to get some sex.


Moe 3 years, 11 months ago

Great point, Kaos. The Symphony board has guts, unlike the City Commission and the Dougherty County School System, who keep everyone from the destructive Judy Bowles to wife-beating judges to corrupt and cheating school teachers and principals.


Gabrielblows 3 years, 11 months ago

Do the citizens of Albany realize that the Albany Symphony is in fact, not Albanian? This orchestra's personnel is mainly imported from Valdosta, Columbus, Tallahassee,etc. Less than ten percent of it's membership is local. I hope the new music director will re-audition all chairs so that this situation can be remedied. I know I will audition given the new leadership will allow it. We do not have enough professional musicians locally to fill every position, but there are a lot more than are currently being utilized. Let's see if the ASO Board has the vision and courage to make this happen!


JustAnotherVoice 3 years, 11 months ago

True. It does seem like a sham when you dissect where the "Albany" symphony really comes from. Very few of the members are from Albany at all! In fact, there are very few that really steady "members" -- very few that are under a contract -- The symphony administrative staff pulls from all over for every concert. Also, not only from Valdosta, Columbus, and Tallahassee but also as far away as Tennessee and Atlanta!

I would think they would be able to raise more money and fill the seats if they chaired the Albany Symphony with actual people from this area!


billstrickland 3 years, 11 months ago

  1. The Symphony board had an opportunity to take a higher road than it ultimately did. I'm sorry they "worked things out" in the easiest way possible. Nevetheless, it was their choice.
  2. Over-sensitivity (by boards, etc.) to "embarrassment by association" is akin to and encouraged by the unhealthy and never-satisfied thirst for scandal that much of the public has developed.
  3. The Albany Symphony exists for area residents, not for the members of the orchestra. The goal is to provide the best concerts possible, not to provide local musicians an outlet. If that goal can be met with local musicians, great; if not ....

Gabrielblows 3 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Strickland, do you think that the current Symphony Orchestra doesn't "showcase" it's talent? Every professional orchestra in the world does this and some even promote their musicians. The New York Philharmonic proudly says that it has some of the most outstanding virtuosos as it's members in the world.Indeed, it does! Do you think we just ought to put our local musicians in a cage and lock them up? We have some outstanding local talent and it needs to be"showcased". Right now, you don't even have the best orchestra that you can buy, even if you don't have many local players! The Symphony isn't just for the social elite you know, it's for everyone!


billstrickland 3 years, 11 months ago

Artistic venues involve presentation and reception. There is no museum of art without art-lovers who visit it; no Theatre Albany without audiences; no Symphony without the music-lovers who "receive" the performances. The Atlanta Symphony's mission statement, for example, includes, "We unite in our desire to serve and to expand our audience ...." As for the "social elite" comment, this season there will have been two public concerts, at least; concerts are sometimes broadcast on Georgia Public Radio; and at one time (possibly even now) students were allowed to sit in unused balcony seats. All those things were at no charge. I have a great appreciation and respect for the musicians who bring concerts to Albany. I am personally familiar with some of them, all from the Albany/Southwest Georgia area. As far as I can tell, they are all keenly intent on presenting a performance that will stir the hearts of the audiences, that will be appreciated. As far as I can tell, they are "listener-centric." Of course, in an educational setting like a college orchestra I would expect things to be more "performer-centric," but I don't believe that to be the case here.


mypersonalopinion 3 years, 11 months ago

I guess readers will never know the truth about this incident. I think it is a shame that his actions has hurt his family. He is truly the one to blame


Jacob 3 years, 11 months ago

That horse is dead. It's ok to stop beating it now. I'm sure he is regretful that he is not perfect like you and Jesus.


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