Cellist and composer Paul Wiancko will become the next Charles E. and Andrea L. Volpe Director of Chamber Music, debuting in the role in the 2024 season. Wiancko’s appointment marks the first time in the Festival’s history that the standing director is both a performer and composer.
Wiancko became a member of the internationally renowned Kronos Quartet in 2023. He is also a founding member of the viola and cello duo Ayane & Paul, as well as the distinctive quartet, Owls. From 2009 to 2011, he was cellist of the Harlem Quartet, with whom he performed and taught extensively on a global scale. A prolific and sought-after composer, Wiancko has written works performed by the St. Lawrence, Kronos, Aizuri, Parker, Calder, and Attacca Quartets, and numerous other prestigious ensembles.
Spoleto Festival General Director & CEO Mena Mark Hanna said: “Paul has an infectious passion for chamber music and an exceptional talent for intuitively communicating the most complex musical devices. He will be an engine of ingenuity for Spoleto and by extension, the chamber music field, curating across period and genre, subverting our expectations of what is western and non-western, canonic and not canonic, new and old.”
Wiancko said: “During my first visit to Spoleto as cellist and composer-in-residence, Geoff Nuttall revealed the generative power of the Festival—a 3-week long upward spiral of music, art, and thought, kept aloft by impassioned audiences and fueled by a preposterous amount of raw talent and artistry. Chamber music grows deeper, more inclusive, and more exciting every day. As Director of Chamber Music at Spoleto, I will explore this treasure trove with our expanding family of fearless chamber artists and beloved audiences.”
The multidisciplinary 17-day Festival annually draws the world’s most renowned classical musicians, including Alisa Weilerstein, Pedja Mužijević, Tara Helen O’Connor, Inon Barnatan, and many others to Charleston to its Bank of America Chamber Music series, a celebration of the chamber music canon as well as exciting new works. As director, Wiancko will curate repertoire and host the intimate concerts at the historic Dock Street Theatre, a twice-daily offering that has made the series a beloved Festival cornerstone.
The modern Festival is a testament to the legacy of the Festival’s first Director of Chamber Music, Charles Wadsworth, who was hand-picked by Spoleto Festival founder Gian Carlo Menotti to develop the Italian concert series in 1960, followed by its American counterpart in 1977. During his tenure as Director of Chamber Music, Wadsworth’s programming included commissions of more than 65 new chamber music works from composers such as Boulez, Barber, and Leonard Bernstein and showcased a number of then-emerging artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Paula Robison, the Emerson Quartet and the St. Lawrence String Quartet, which became Spoleto’s quartet-in-residence and led to the appointment of Geoff Nuttall as Spoleto’s Director of Chamber Music in 2010.
Nuttall’s leadership of the series was punctuated by his singular approach to musical commentary, which was equal parts academic lecture and affable banter. A voracious champion of new voices in chamber music, Nuttall welcomed a veritable roster of artists, including Anthony Roth Costanzo, Joshua Roman, Mark Applebaum, and many more to the stage in Charleston over his 12-year tenure. In 2019, Nuttall invited Wiancko to serve as the Festival’s composer-in-residence. Wiancko returned to perform as part of the Festival’s chamber music ensemble in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Following Nuttall’s untimely passing in the fall of 2022, Wiancko and several of his musical colleagues shared curatorial and emcee duties for the 2023 Festival.
Wiancko represents the second artistic appointment of Hanna’s tenure as general director and CEO. Last month, the Festival announced conductor Timothy Myers as the new music director of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, joining Jazz Curator Larry Blumenfeld and Director of Choral Activities Joe Miller in the organization’s artistic leadership. Said Hanna: “With Paul and Tim now on board, I believe vibrant interplay between our artistic disciplines will flourish.”
Photo by Peter Frank Edwards