Kick off fall arts season by getting to know the artistic leaders who shape what you'll see on stage.

Rossen Milanov

Music director, Columbus Symphony Orchestra

Hometown: Sofia, Bulgaria

Signature piece: Pictures from an Exhibition, Modest Mussorgsky/Maurice Ravel

Influences: Herbert von Karajan, Carlos Kleiber and his grandmother's passion for music

Gateway piece for first-timers: Carmina Burana, Carl Orff (Oct. 2 to 3) and Pictures at an Exhibition, Modest Mussorgsky (Jan. 8)

Favorite hidden gem: North Market. "[It's] not really a hidden gem, but for me it was a very comforting discovery as afoodie and supporter of locally grown produce."

columbussymphony.com

Edwaard Liang

Artistic director, BalletMet

Hometown: Born in Taipei, Taiwan, and raised in Marin County, California

Signature piece: "Age of Innocence"

Influences: Dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev and Wendy Whelan; choreographers Christopher Wheeldon, Jiri Kylian, Jean-Christophe Maillot, Justin Peck, Val Caniparoli and Yuri Possokhov; and the music of Ezio Bosso, Philip Glass, Sergei Prokofiev, Dag Wiren and Joby Talbot

Gateway piece for first-timers: "Breaking Ballet" (Oct. 2 to 10)

Favorite hidden gem: Westgate Thai, Lindey's, Barcelona and Rigsby's Kitchen. "Those last few are not so hidden, but they are oh-so-delicious."

balletmet.org

Peggy Kriha Dye

Artistic director, Opera Columbus

Hometown: Brainard, Minnesota

Signature piece: "Don Giovanni," Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Influences: Mirella Freni, Renee Fleming and Anna Moffo

Gateway piece for first-timers: "La Boheme," Giacomo Puccini (March 2 to 6). "It is the same story as 'Rent.' Wonderful drama and music. Our production is set in modern times and performed by a young, vibrant cast, and the show is two hours. Most opera lovers claim this opera as their favorite."

Favorite hidden gem: Opera Columbus' Opera on the Edge series performed at Shadowbox Live's Backstage Bistro. "Opera in English, in an hour and performed throughout the dining room while you enjoy a drink and dinner. [It's] unexpected, unique and crazy fun!"

operacolumbus.org

Steven Anderson

Producing director, CATCO

Hometown: Arlington, Oregon

Signature piece: "I directed a production of the musical version of "The Secret Garden" that was both interpreted in American Sign Language and spoken (and sung) English. It was very specific and detailed storytelling."

Influences: "As a kid, I was an avid consumer of the novels of Charles Dickens and the light opera of (W.S.) Gilbert and (Arthur) Sullivan.I think the intricacy of character and plot in both led me to have a keen interest in the artful telling of stories."

Gateway piece for first-timers: "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" (April 6 to 24). "It's accessible but intelligent. I think it's one of (Christopher) Durang's best works."

Favorite hidden gem: "I am a big fan of SuperChef's Downtown-probably too big a fan. Their caramelized bacon is pure, blissful sin."

catco.org

Byron Stripling

Artistic director, Columbus Jazz Orchestra

Hometown: Decatur, Georgia

Signature piece: "A Night in Tunisia," Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker

Influences: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Clark Terry, Thad Jones, Louis Armstrong and Kenny Dorham

Gateway piece for first-timers: "Redefining Tradition: Ellington, Basie and Beyond" (Oct. 22 to 25)

Favorite hidden gem: Tasi Cafe

jazzartsgroup.org