By Vicki Boutwell
This month, after the last St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra concert of the 2022/2023 season, Stephanie Childress will conclude her tenure as YO Music Director and SLSO Assistant Conductor. Demand for her exceptional talent is growing on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, as she embarks on the next chapter of her music career.
Childress is in a reflective mood as she looks ahead to what’s next.
The past two-and-a-half seasons have been filled with variety and new experiences for Childress: from making both her conducting and performing debuts with the SLSO in classical concerts to conducting several movies (“I conducted The Muppet Christmas Carol, Star Wars, and Up, butRaiders of the Lost Ark was my favorite,” she said.). She also led the SLSO in concerts with guest artists including Ben Folds and the Indigo Girls, as well as the annual New Year’s Eve Celebration concert.
“Working with the SLSO has been a remarkable opportunity to be a part of an organization and gain a great perspective on all that it takes to run something like this,” Childress said. “I feel really spoiled by this orchestra. I am so grateful for my time in St. Louis.”
While it’s difficult to pick a single favorite memory from her time in St. Louis, several came to mind immediately for Childress. “I’ll never forget my audition and meeting this orchestra for the first time,” she remembered. “They were so welcoming and warm. I was overwhelmed they chose me.”
The orchestra’s recent four-country European Tour was also a highlight.
“It was such a special experience—seeing the orchestra I love so much in my home territory,” she said. “I got to show them off and audiences across Europe saw why I love them so much. Seeing them perform in these incredible halls in Europe and perform so brilliantly… It was very special.”
Working with Music Director Stéphane Denève has been transformative.
“He’s truly one of the biggest influences in my life. He’s such a generous mentor, and I know that will continue,” she said.
Childress also cherishes working with the Youth Orchestra.
“I’m proud to have been part of their development. They have grown so much,” she said. “Together, we’ve built back so much of what COVID took away. I think that says a lot about what the YO does for these students and the St. Louis community.”
What’s next on Childress’ busy schedule? This summer, she’ll join the Sun Valley Music Festival in Idaho (and several SLSO musicians there) as Associate Conductor. She will continue her collaboration with Glyndebourne opera house in the United Kingdom and debut with both Detroit Opera and Staatsoper Hamburg in Germany.
“Next season is a good mixture of symphonic and operatic work on both sides of the Atlantic,” she said. “I want to continue working in the United States since it’s given me so much. I feel like my career truly started here.”
As she prepares to conduct the final YO concert of the season on May 14, she also realizes the historic significance of the program.
“I’m honored to conduct the last concert at Powell Hall before the orchestra moves out to its temporary homes.” she said.
Childress looks forward to returning to St. Louis in the future to work with the SLSO again. In the meantime, she is thankful for her time with the SLSO and in St. Louis.
“I want to thank everyone for making me feel so welcome,” she said.“I loved it when audience members would come up and talk to me or just say hello. It was such a joy hearing from you and getting to know you all.”
And one last St. Louis memory? “I had the best burger of my life at O’Connell’s. I’ve tried a lot of burgers, but this is one I’ll miss.”
Vicki Boutwell is the SLSO’s Vice President of Communications.