JACKSONVILLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA ANNOUNCES COURTNEY LEWIS AS ITS NEW MUSIC DIRECTOR
RISING STAR CONDUCTOR BRINGS A NEW ERA OF MUSICAL EXCITEMENT TO JACKSONVILLE
(Jacksonville, Fla. – May 28, 2014) The Jacksonville Symphony Association has named Courtney Lewis as its new music director, marking an exciting new era in artistic leadership of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. In his upcoming season as music director designate, Lewis is scheduled to conduct the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s opening concerts on September 26 and 27, 2014, and on May 14 and 15, 2015. His first full season of conducting engagements begins in 2015-16.
A rising star on the national scene, Lewis is renowned for his clear artistic vision, subtle musicality, innovative programming and deep musical understanding. Lewis was recently appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic and is co-founder and music director of Boston’s acclaimed Discovery Ensemble chamber orchestra. Embarking on his first music directorship of a leading American regional orchestra, the British conductor, born in Belfast, turns 30 years old tomorrow. Lewis made his major American orchestral debut in 2008 with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and has led orchestras throughout North America and abroad to wide acclaim.
Martin F. Connor, chair and CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony Association, and David L. Pierson, president of the Jacksonville Symphony Association, presided over the announcement, which took place on the Jacoby Symphony Hall stage at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. “We are extremely pleased to announce the appointment of Courtney Lewis as music director,” said Connor. “This begins an exciting new era for Jacksonville, both in enhancing the orchestra’s artistic excellence and bringing music into the community in ways that extend far beyond the concert hall.”
“I thank the wonderful musicians of the Jacksonville Symphony for entrusting me with their artistic leadership. I have thought about our concerts together every day since my visit in March and I know that we will inspire each other to new heights,” said Lewis. “I’m also delighted to be here in spectacular Jacoby Symphony Hall, which will now be my home in which to make music with this great orchestra.”
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For his concerts in the upcoming season, Lewis has programmed two blockbuster works that showcase the depth and power of the orchestra. He will conduct Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” on September 26 and 27, 2014, and Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra” on May 14 and 15, 2015. Plans for the 2015-16 season are already underway. “I’m incredibly excited about planning our first full season together in 2015-16 and can’t wait to share many masterpieces with you, both new and familiar,” said Lewis.
Lewis said that his role with the Jacksonville Symphony will be to build on the achievements of outgoing Music Director Fabio Mechetti, by continuing to bring the orchestra to new levels of artistic and technical excellence, and to broaden the orchestra’s repertoire. He also looks forward to leading the development of new connections between the orchestra and the Jacksonville community, by continuing to enrich the lives of concert-goers and finding new ways of introducing the power and passion of classical music to newcomers.
A passionate advocate of music education and community participation, Lewis’s arrival will be a catalyst in broadening Jacksonville’s cultural landscape. “My decision to come to Jacksonville is as much about the community as it is about the orchestra, which can only exist with a strong community behind it.” In Boston, Lewis leads the youthful and dynamic Discovery Ensemble, dedicated to concerts at the highest level of musical excellence, and bringing live music into the least privileged parts of Boston with workshops in local schools. He has served as associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and was a Dudamel Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra music director selection process began more than two years ago. The nine-member search committee was co-chaired by Jacksonville Symphony Board Member Mary Carr Patton and Jacksonville Symphony Principal Tubist James E. Jenkins. Lewis was one of eight guest conductors who led the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra this past season, each being considered for the music director position. “This process would not be possible without the audience, patrons, the arts and business community, and city leadership. Above all we thank the musicians of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Looking back on each concert, this has been a season of incredible music. I urge everyone to join in the excitement and subscribe to the upcoming season,” said Pierson.
Lewis succeeds Fabio Mechetti, whose tenure with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra began in 1999. A graduate of the University of Cambridge, he is the eighth music director to lead the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in its 65-year history.
In addition to Patton and Jenkins, the music director search committee included board members Elizabeth Lovett Colledge, Chris Doerr and Anne Lufrano; musicians Anna Genest, Eric Olson, Philip Pan; and community member-at-large Allison Korman Shelton.
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About Courtney Lewis
With clear artistic vision, subtle musicality, and innovative programming, Courtney Lewis has established himself as one of his generation’s most talented conductors. Recently appointed music director of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, a position he will assume in the 2014-15 season, Lewis is also the assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Previous appointments have included associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, where he made his subscription debut in the 2011-12 season, and Dudamel Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which he first conducted in 2011. A passionate advocate of music education, Courtney Lewis is the co-founder and music director of Boston’s acclaimed Discovery Ensemble, a chamber orchestra dedicated not only to giving concerts of contemporary and established repertoire at the highest level of musical and technical excellence, but also bringing live music into the least privileged parts of Boston with workshops in local schools.
Lewis made his major American orchestral debut in November 2008 with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, and has since appeared with the Atlanta Symphony, Washington National Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Naples Philharmonic, Alabama Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, and Ulster Orchestra. Recent and upcoming engagements include debuts with the Vancouver Symphony, Houston Symphony, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, and Memphis Symphony, as well as returns to the Minnesota Orchestra, Alabama Symphony, and RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Lewis graduated from the University of Cambridge where he studied composition with Robin Holloway and clarinet with Dame Thea King. After completing a master’s degree with a focus on the late music of György Ligeti, he attended the Royal Northern College of Music, where his teachers included Sir Mark Elder and Clark Rundell.
COURTNEY LEWIS – Accolades
“… both an inspired conductor – every moment seems to be on its way to or from someplace – and an inspired programmer.” – The Boston Phoenix
“Lewis’s conducting was at its most vivid, and the orchestra responded to each capacious gesture (and podium stamp). They clearly enjoy playing for Lewis and are doubtless happy that his work in Boston will continue. Audiences should be as well.” – Boston Globe, March 2, 2014
“We discovered Courtney Lewis after an extensive audition process, and he emerged as a very promising future colleague as our next Assistant Conductor.” – Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, on Courtney Lewis being named assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, February 27, 2014
“It’s the alchemy between the players and Courtney… He has the ability to get them to give themselves over and become an orchestra.” – David St. George, co-founder/artistic director of Discovery Ensemble. Quoted in Boston Globe, April 6, 2013
“What’s most striking in the rehearsals is the rapport between Lewis and the players. His style of conducting is quick, alert, physically expressive. After each movement or passage he whips through the technical stuff — notes on tempo and dynamics — but he also communicates through metaphor, speaking evocatively about the music and giving the musicians room to respond, to draw it out of themselves.” – Boston Globe, April 6, 2013
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“Under his baton the Discovery’s performances often blend a streamlined precision with a supple musicality. He is also at ease in speaking directly to audiences about the music, a skill that comes in handy these days.”
Boston Globe, January 1, 2012
“If you haven’t registered this young conductor’s name, do so now, because it’s likely you’ll be hearing a lot more about him in the future. His work showed him to be, by some distance, the best young conducting talent [from Northern Ireland] I’ve heard in more than two decades.” – Irish Times, July 24, 2012
“Lewis imbues his performances with outbursts of flashy, pumping energy contrasted with relenting moments of reflection…” “Courtney Lewis is clearly a capable, intelligent and musical conductor with loads of energy to spare. His is a name to watch.” – Culture Northern Ireland, June 22, 2011
“Lewis has the quiet self-assurance that is an unconditional requirement for anyone striving to make a career on the podium.” – Boston Globe, November 12, 2010
“Music Director Courtney Lewis was back at what he does best, delivering a program thoughtfully conceived, meticulously rehearsed, and memorable and dynamic in execution.” – Boston Musical Intelligencer, 4/ 16/2012
“Music Director Courtney Lewis has molded his players, some of the area’s finest young students/ professionals, into a chamber orchestra of impressive accomplishment. He is also a very creative programmer… and he’s as at home with modern music as he is with a Beethoven Symphony.”
Boston Musical Intelligencer, October 4, 2011
“Among Boston’s burgeoning ecosystem of younger, entrepreneurial classical music groups, the Discovery Ensemble and its director, Courtney Lewis, have carved out a niche by cultivating a certain brash suavity, an insistent flamboyance that pulls the listener into their dapper conspiracy. Their program at Sanders Theatre on Friday was an ideal vehicle — music regarding the grand tradition with casual confidence, and even a little insouciance. The result was smart, flattering tailoring.” – Boston Globe, November 15, 2010
About the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra
The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra ranks among the nation’s top regional orchestras and is vital to the City of Jacksonville’s continued growth. From September through May, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra performs at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts and in community venues throughout the First Coast and statewide.
As a non-profit cultural and educational organization, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s programming reflects the diversity of the community and is relevant to today’s audience, offering the highest caliber of live symphonic variety – from the classic masterpieces, to contemporary works, to opera and theater, to popular styles. Each season nearly 84,000 young people benefit from the Orchestra’s diverse educational opportunities, including concerts, in-school ensemble performances, Jump Start Strings after-school enrichment, master classes, and the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra.
Founded in 1949, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra has hosted some of the most renowned artists of the past century, including Isaac Stern, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Marilyn Horne, and Luciano Pavarotti. Acclaimed for its “superior quality” by the Toronto Star, the Jacksonville Symphony has performed twice at Carnegie Hall and has been broadcast nationally on “Performance Today.” In the 2014-15 season, Courtney Lewis makes his debut as music director designate. Highlights also include guest artists Audra McDonald and Paul Williams, and staged productions of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. For further information, log on to JaxSymphony.org or call 904.354.5547.
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