Thanks for the memories: David Hagy planning his final Pops at the Post

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 28, 2024

David Hagy, who has served 36 years as the Salisbury Symphony conductor and has conducted the annual Pops at the Post concert since it began 20 years ago, will be retiring this year.

His career has spanned decades, beginning while in high school as he was encouraged by his music teachers to write music for the school’s orchestra and conduct it as well as conducting some of his original music at a summer music camp the public school offered.

Attending Indiana University, Hagy played in the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and studied with the conductor Thomas Briccetti who became his first mentor. Following his time at the university, he got a job with the Omaha Area Youth Orchestra where he was employed for four years before going to graduate school at Yale, where he worked with his second mentor, Otto-Werner Mueller, and earned his masters and doctorate degrees.

In the summer of 1988, Hagy said he was hired as the conductor of the Salisbury Symphony, while at this same time, conducting both the Greensboro and Winston-Salem Youth Orchestras, and for 27 years, he served as the orchestra director at Wake Forest University, retiring from them two years ago.

While Hagy will be retiring this year, he will still be involved in various aspects of the symphony, serving as the music director emeritus, which means he will continue to conduct “The Nutcracker” each season, plus he will be available as a resource to whoever the new music director will be, and the board, if they need to ask questions or consult, he said.

And, the title emeritus is a way of showing respect for the job one has done, “so, I’m hopeful that the title is also partially that,” Hagy said with a laugh.

Also as the director emeritus, he could possibly fill in if an emergency situation arises with the new conductor. Multiple candidates have been reviewed to serve as his replacement; however, no announcement has been made as to who will be replacing him.

Noting that because they still have to hire a director and negotiate with that person, he did stress this is “probably” his final Pops at the Post, but he did go on to say “whether or not this is my absolute final, I don’t know, but we are preparing it as if it will be my final Pops at the Post.”

This special concert began 20 years ago as a one-time celebration for the 100th anniversary of the Salisbury Post and when searching with the editor at the time for a place to have it, he was struck with how incredible the acoustics were at the loading dock, and the concert platform was settled on and has continued to be held in this location each year.

At the first concert, Hagy said, “there were so many people at that concert, loved the concert that they clamored for that concert to be done again and so a board was formed separately from the Salisbury Symphony and incorporated as a 501c3 organization to present this concert annually.”

While serving as the conductor with the Salisbury Symphony, Hagy said “there were so many wonderful moments.”

He told of the 25th anniversary as they celebrated with the founding conductor Albert Chaffoo, the beginning of “The Nutcracker” performances, a 50th anniversary concert with the performance of a very difficult piece called “Don Juan” by Richard Strauss and some wonderful soloist performances, gospel choirs and other choral groups.

Hagy noted one concert in particular, in 2000, subtitled the Resurrection Symphony by Mahler, where there were more than 200 people in the chorus and more than 100 in the orchestra, and some of them hidden backstage, in the balcony and other places with camera to see him and follow his conducting, making it seem as though the “sound came presumably from heaven. It was amazing! That was a remarkable concert.” 

Hagy said his parents were not musical. They had no piano in the home and not even a record player; and therefore credits his becoming a musician to the public school system in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Throughout his years in school, beginning in first grade, they had a drop the needle on a record test and had to identify both the piece and composer. So by the time he reached the eighth grade, he was trained in 80 orchestral pieces. This, plus the music teachers helping him learn instruments and encouraging him in his writing and conducting, he said, “you can see how this public school system made a child of nonmusical parents into a classical orchestral conductor. It was just amazing, the level of teaching was phenomenal and the level of interest.” 

Looking toward retirement, Hagy said he wanted to say thanks to the Salisbury community for their support and “allowing me to work with their orchestra for this wonderful length of time and for funding it.”

He was also thankful for the friendly people he has been able to work with through his time and that he has made some lifelong friends, mentioning Linda Jones and Missy Shives, the orchestra’s first two managers and executive directors.

To those who have attended concerts and supported through the years, Hagy said it is his “sincere hope that they will continue to enjoy the Salisbury Symphony and they continue to support it.” 

He thanked all for “attending when they could, supporting when they couldn’t attend and just being a part of the symphony’s extended family.”

On behalf of the Pops at the Post board, Audrey Eudy, who serves as the vice chair said, “The Pops at the Post board would like to thank David Hagy for his many years of excellence with our community concert and wish much happiness for his future.”