Darko Butorac

Asheville Symphony Orchestra

NOTE: This is the second in our two-part look at the outlook of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra during and after the Coronavirus pandemic.


Since the order to shelter in place, Darko Butorac has stayed at his Asheville home, trying to remain creative during the pandemic while pondering the future of classical music after it—not just for the Asheville Symphony but for large orchestras everywhere.

“The experience will change. This is too big to simply ignore and say we’re going back to live (concert) situations,” Butorac said. “So I think the changes might be in terms of how we approach concerts and how we communicate with audiences.”

Butorac is in his second season as music director in Asheville. He said his third season and almost certainly his fourth will be programmatically and, perhaps, even functionally shaped by the pandemic. The orchestra is planning and printing a brochure for its 2021 season at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, which it hopes to launch next February.

Here is the complete conversation between Darko Butorac, the new music director of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, and Blue Ridge Public Radio arts and culture producer Matt Peiken.

Courtesy of Asheville Symphony Orchestra

NOTE: BPR Classic is airing the entire hour-long conversation between Darko Butorac, the new music director of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, and BPR arts & culture producer Matt Peiken. Broadcasts are at 7pm Dec. 28 and 10am Jan. 15.


Darko Butorac was a teenager in Seattle when the grunge movement swept the city and American pop culture. But as millions flocked to the music of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, Butorac saw classical music as his rebellion.

“Grunge was becoming big and I was like ‘Oh my god I can’t stand this,’” he said. “Put yourself in this situation: You’re coming from socialist-communist Eastern Europe, you move to the Pacific Northwest, and it’s about as far as you can get from Eastern Europe, both geographically and culturally. The transition for me was very difficult, so I didn’t really feel at the moment that I fit in.”

After a season devoted to auditioning six finalists, the Asheville Symphony Orchestra has tapped Darko Butorac as its next music director. Butorac succeeds Daniel Meyer, who departed the orchestra after the end of the most recent season, his 12th in Asheville.

Butorac, 40, began his life in classical music as a cellist, but had his first chance to conduct an orchestra when he was 17. From then on, he knew he wanted a life on the podium.