Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Good timing helped Giancarlo Guerrero land his music director posts with two very different orchestras that nonetheless have a lot in common: the Nashville (Tenn.) Symphony and Wrocław Philharmonic at the National Forum of Music in Poland.

Neither is based in a city known as a classical-music center, but Guerrero has managed to boost both ensembles’ profiles in part through recordings and touring. “I’m truly lucky that I get to work with two absolutely fantastic ensembles in two fabulous concert venues,” he said.

The NFM Wrocław Philharmonic will soon make just its second-ever visit to the United States, an ambitious cross-country trip that runs Jan. 10 through Feb. 1 and includes 13 concerts in 12 venues. Among those will be a performance Jan. 25 as part of the Symphony Center Presents Orchestra Series. Guerrero and his ensemble will perform with famed Polish pianist Piotr Anderszweski, who heard the orchestra last year in Hamburg and was so impressed that he immediately wanted to collaborate with it.

“The orchestra, the city and the institution wanted to extend their boundaries beyond Europe,” said Guerrero, who became the Wrocław Philharmonic’s music director in 2017. “We’re actually thinking not only the United States but also Asia, and part of it is just building and expanding the reputation of the orchestra, which is very well deserved. This a long-term plan to get the name of the orchestra outside [of Europe].”

The orchestra’s Chicago program will begin with the Symphonic Variations by one of Poland’s best-known 20th-century composers, Witold Lutosławski (1913-94). His Symphony No. 3 was premiered by Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1983, giving the city a strong tie to the composer. “Lutosławski was a patron of this orchestra,” Guerrero said of the Wrocław Philharmonic. “He had a long history of working with this orchestra just the way [Krzysztof] Penderecki did. The orchestra has been championing the works of the great 20th-century Polish composers.”

After becoming interested in a musical career as member of a youth symphony in his native Nicaragua, Guerrero came to the United States in 1987 to study percussion at Baylor University in Texas and never gave any consideration to conducting. “I was very happy in the back of the orchestra, making fun of the conductors,” he said. He was forced, however, to enroll in a basic conducting class as part of his music major. Even though he didn’t take it very seriously, his teacher (Michael Haithcock, now director of bands at the University of Michigan) told him that he showed promise.

So when he attended Northwestern University in Evanston for his master’s degree, Guerrero pursued both percussion and conducting. The latter he studied with Victor Yampolsky, Northwestern’s well-respected director of orchestras. An emigré from the Soviet Union, where he was assistant concertmaster and assistant conductor of the Moscow Philharmonic, Yampolsky has held many notable posts in the United States, including principal second violinist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Omaha (Neb.) Symphony.

Guerrero calls Yampolsky one of the “great pedagogues.” “He could be at times quite severe, but it was always for my best interest,” he said. “He was very demanding, and it is those traits and discipline that he instilled in me that I carry every single day that I walk on to a podium. And I’m very proud to say that Victor is one of my dearest colleagues and now has become a dear friend over the years.” (At Guerrero’s urging, Yampolsky served as a guest conductor of the Wrocław Philharmonic in November.)

In May 2005, Guerrero guest conducted the Nashville Symphony during the tenure of Kenneth Schermerhorn, who had been music director and principal conductor since 1983. “As destiny had it, the weekend before I arrived for my first rehearsal, Maestro Schermerhorn passed away kind of suddenly,” Guerrero said. “He had been ill, but he was doing OK.” So Guerrero’s concerts suddenly became a memorial to Schermerhorn. “Things went so well with me, I connected with the orchestra immediately, and we managed to celebrate his life.”

The orchestra management asked if the maestro could guest conduct any of the concerts the following season, and Guerrero was able to take the opening and closing sets of concerts in what turned out to be the orchestra’s last season in its former hall. At the same time, he became an obvious candidate to be the new music director and eventually won the job.

In September 2006, the orchestra’s current home, the $123.5 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center opened, and according to Guerrero, it has transformed the ensemble. Designed by David M. Schwarz/Architectural Services Inc. of Washington, D.C., the neo-classical building contains a 1,844-seat concert hall with top-notch acoustics. “It is a fabulous concert hall,” he said. “It is absolutely a masterpiece. When you connect the great orchestras over the last century, what is the thing they have in common? They have a great hall. Chicago with Orchestra Hall. Boston with Symphony Hall. The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The Philharmonie in Berlin. Vienna with the Musikverein. It is absolutely imperative for an orchestra to have the space to make music.”

Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony have been nominated for 10 Grammy Awards (nearly half of the nominations the orchestra has received since beginning its partnership with the Naxos label in 2000) and have won six. His most recent nomination came in November, when he and the orchestra were nominated for a recording that includes Jonathan Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 4 (Heichalos) and Guitar Concerto. Guerrero attributes the Grammy success to the orchestra’s emphasis on American music, mostly contemporary composers such as Michael Daugherty, Joseph Schwantner, Roberto Sierra and Joan Tower, but, more and more, composers from the past as well.

“The world doesn’t need another Beethoven cycle, not from the Nashville Symphony, at least,” he said. “What can we find musically that nobody else is doing? And we found that that this is the one thing that apparently nobody else is really focusing on, and because of it, not only has it brought recognition, but when you look at the list of all the composers we have worked with, it’s just a who’s who.”

Known as “Music City,” Nashville has a rich stock of recording studios, music clubs and instrument stores. Although celebrated as the capital of country music, a host of other American styles are present there as well, including bluegrass, gospel, rock and jazz. So on the recording front, it just seemed natural for the Nashville Symphony to stay within the classical genre but plug into that American emphasis. “That has brought great attention the orchestra but it also connects very well to what Nashville is all about,” he said. “It’s something that we’re very proud of.”

Guerrero’s appointment in Poland came much as his hiring did in Nashville. He was guest-conducting in Berlin when his agent got an urgent call about whether the maestro could fill in for another conductor who was forced to cancel at the last minute. At that point, Guerrero had never heard of Wrocław, but he happened to have an open slot on his schedule and he knew the works on the program, so he agreed to help out. He did some advance research and learned a bit about the city, which dates to the Middle Ages and has been many fascinating musical ties. Johannes Brahms, for example, composed his Academic Festival Overture in 1880 as a tribute to the University of Breslau (the city’s name before World War II), because it bestowed on him an honorary doctorate.

Just as the Nashville Symphony got a big boost from his new hall, the Wrocław Philharmonic has been equally aided by the construction of the National Forum of Music, which was completed in 2015. In addition to three smaller venues, it has an 1,800-seat concert hall with what Guerrero calls “incredible acoustics.” Indeed, it has become a sought-after stop for soloists and orchestras undertaking European tours, such as the Israel Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. “It has made Wrocław a destination,” he said, “and that is again a perfect example of how a new, fantastic concert hall can really turn the city around.”

The hall was just a year old when Guerrero first visited in October 2016, and he was immediately impressed. “Then I started rehearsing [the ensemble], and I thought, ‘What a great orchestra,’ and I immediately connected with them.” At the end of the week, he was invited to return the following December, and suddenly it became clear that he was being auditioned as the orchestra’s next music director. “Then when the offer came in, I could not say no,” he said. “And since then, it has been a wonderful place for me to go and spend extended time during my visits there.”