2014 Conductors

Mei-Ann Chen

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An innovative and passionate force both on and off the conductor’s podium, Mei-Ann Chen is one of America’s most dynamic young conductors. Music Director of the Memphis Symphony since 2010 and of the Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, she has infused both orchestras with energy, enthusiasm and high-level music-making, galvanizing their audiences and communities alike. In recognition of these accomplishments, the League of American Orchestras granted her the prestigious Helen M. Thompson Award at its 2012 national conference in Dallas. A sought-after guest conductor, Ms. Chen’s reputation as a compelling communicator has resulted in growing popularity with orchestras both nationally and internationally.

Maestra Chen’s 2013 - 2014 season takes her across the country, and to Canada, Sweden, and Austria. Guesting highlights include engagements with the Detroit Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Austria’s Gross Orchester Graz, Sweden’s Göteborgs Symfoniker and NorrlandsOperan (Norrland's Opera), with whom she appears in both the fall and spring.

Ms. Chen’s recent seasons include debuts with the Chicago Symphony on its subscription series, with the San Francisco Symphony, Houston Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony (where she stepped in on short notice and was immediately re-engaged), and San Diego Symphony nationally, and engagements abroad with Brazil’s São Paulo Symphony, Finland’s Tampere Philharmonic, the Netherlands Philharmonic in the Concertgebouw, and the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. Among her many North American guesting credits are appearances with the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Colorado, Fort Worth, Nashville, North Carolina, Oregon, Pacific, Phoenix, Seattle, Toronto, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. Overseas, she has conducted the principal Danish orchestras, the BBC Scottish Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, Orquestra Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, and the Trondheim Symphony. U.S. summer music festivals credits include the Aspen Music Festival, Britt, Grand Teton, Wintergreen, the Chautauqua Institute and the Texas Music Festival in Houston.

In addition to the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras, Mei-Ann Chen’s skill on the podium and as a music educator has been recognized with several honors, awards and posts. In 2005 Ms. Chen became the first woman to win Copenhagen’s esteemed Malko Competition. She served as Assistant Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony and Baltimore Symphony, under the aegis of the League of American Orchestras, with the Oregon symphony as well. Recipient of the 2007 Taki Concordia Fellowship, she has appeared jointly with Marin Alsop and Stefan Sanderling in highly acclaimed subscription concerts with the Baltimore Symphony, Colorado Symphony and Florida Orchestra. In 2002, Ms. Chen was unanimously selected as Music Director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic in Oregon, the oldest of its kind and a model for many youth orchestras in the United States. During her five-year tenure with the orchestra, she led its sold-out debut in Carnegie Hall, received an ASCAP award for innovative programming, and developed new and unique musicianship programs for the orchestra’s members. She was also the recipient of a Sunburst Award from Young Audiences for her contribution to music education.

Born in Taiwan, Mei-Ann Chen has lived in the United States since 1989. She was the first student in New England Conservatory’s history to receive master’s degrees, simultaneously, in both violin and conducting, later studying with Kenneth Kiesler at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting. Ms. Chen also participated in the National Conducting Institute in Washington, D.C. and at the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen. Photo Credit: Rosalie O'Connor


Daniel Hege

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Daniel Hege is widely recognized as one of America’s finest conductors, earning critical acclaim for his fresh interpretations of the standard repertoire and for his commitment to creative programming. He served for eleven seasons as the Music Director of the Syracuse Symphony and in June 2009, was appointed Music Director of the Wichita Symphony, beginning his tenure with that orchestra in September 2010.

Following a nationwide search, Mr. Hege was named Music Director of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra in April, 1999. In June 2001, he completed a five year tenure with the Baltimore Symphony where he held the titles of Assistant, Associate and Resident Conductor and led the orchestra in subscription, family and run-out concerts. Mr. Hege also served as Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, Assistant Conductor of the Pacific Symphony, Music Director of the Encore Chamber Orchestra in Chicago and Music Director of the Chicago Youth Symphony where he was twice honored by the American Symphony Orchestra League for innovative programming.

Daniel Hege has guest conducted the Houston, Detroit, Seattle, Indianapolis, Oregon, Colorado, San Diego, Columbus and Phoenix symphonies; the Rochester, Buffalo and Calgary Philharmonics; and led the orchestras at the Grand Teton and Aspen Music Festivals. International engagements include performances with the Singapore Symphony and the St. Petersburg Symphony at the Winter Nights Festival. In addition, Mr. Hege has worked with the Syracuse Opera with which he conducted productions of Madame Butterfly, La Traviata, Tosca and Don Pasquale.

Recent and upcoming guest conducting engagements include appearances with the Houston, Louisiana, Naples and Orlando Philharmonics; the Louisville and Florida Orchestras; the Pacific, Puerto Rico, Omaha, Grand Rapids, Virginia, Sarasota, Charleston, Tulsa, Boise and Memphis symphonies; and at the Music Academy of the West.

Mr. Hege has also made numerous recordings, including a disc with the Baltimore Symphony and the Morgan State University Choir featuring works by Adolphus Hailstork and three CD’s with the Syracuse Symphony, one featuring works by Verdi, Barber, Debussy, Respighi and James Johnson; a second CD of Holiday Pops works arranged by Calvin Custer; and a third of Big Band favorites, also arranged by Custer. He also made a recording with the Cedille label in Chicago titled Violin Concertos by Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries with Rachel Barton Pine and the Encore Chamber Orchestra.

Daniel Hege received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1987 from Bethel College, Kansas where he majored in music and history. He continued his studies at the University of Utah, receiving a Master of Music degree in orchestra conducting and also founding the University Chamber Orchestra and serving as Assistant Conductor of the University Orchestra and Music Director of the Utah Singers. He subsequently studied with Paul Vermel at the Aspen Music Festival and in Los Angeles with noted conductor and pedagogue Daniel Lewis.

In May 2004, Mr. Hege was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Le Moyne College in Syracuse for his contributions to the cultural life in central New York State. Born in Colorado, Mr. Hege currently resides in Syracuse with his wife and their three daughters.  Photo Credit: Christian Steiner

Franz Anton Krager*

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American born and trained conductor, Franz Anton Krager, has made his artistic presence felt both at home and abroad with performance engagements in some of the world's most celebrated concert halls and musical centers. Since making his prize-winning European conducting debut in Copenhagen's Tivoli Koncertsalen in 1978, Krager has led orchestras in the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Moscow's State Kremlin Palace, Manchester England's Bridgewater Hall, Birmingham England's Adrian Boult Hall, Guangzhou China's Xinghai Music Center, the Sydney Opera House, Amsterdam Congresgebouw, Kazan's State Philharmonic Hall in Russia, Guadalajara's Degollado Theater, and Sarasota's Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. His affiliations with leading music festivals include the Lancaster International Concert Series and the Lichfield and Aberystwyth International Arts Festivals in the U.K., the "Puccini e la sua Lucca," "Lago di Como," "Lunatica," "Pianomaster," "Sinfonico," "Giovedì a Teatro," "Scarlino Castello," and "All Around Jazz" festivals in Italy, and the Texas Music Festival and Interlochen National Music Camp in the U.S.

Maestro Krager's roster of conducting engagements is a full collection of international and domestic appearances in both the professional and academic arenas. He has led the Houston Symphony; Russian State Symphony; Romanian and Kazan State Philharmonics; Honolulu and Florida West Coast Symphonies; Chetham's Symphony Orchestra and Musicfest International Orchestra (U.K.); Symphony Orchestra of Berlin; Akademisches Orchester Leipzig; Koriyama Symphony Orchestra (Japan); Riverside Philharmonic (CA); Traverse Symphony Orchestra (MI); East and Mid-Texas Symphony Orchestras; Texas and Oakland (CA) Ballet Companies, Houston Ballet Ben Stevenson Academy, Sandra Organ Dance Company (TX); the chamber orchestras of Stratford ("Orchestra of the Swan," where he was principal guest conductor from 2000-2004), Birmingham and Leamington (U.K.); Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss am Rhein (Germany); Orchestra Sinfonica Citta' di Grosseto, Guido d'Arezzo, and Orchestra Sinfonica del Conservatorio Jacopo Tomadini (Italy); the Missouri Chamber Orchestra; and the Round Top Festival-Institute.

In 2000, Krager served as General & Artistic Director for "Shostakovich 2000," a five-day international music festival marking the 25th anniversary of Shostakovich's death. "Shostakovich 2000" drew people to Houston from across the U.S., Europe, and Russia, and was recognized by the DSCH Journal as a major world event for ballet, opera, chamber, and orchestral music by Shostakovich. Krager again conducted Shostakovich, in 2003, with the Russian State Symphony Orchestra & Symphonic Cappella and Alexander Kisselev of the Bolshoi Theatre, inside the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow. This command performance, initiated by the Kremlin authorities, was given in honor of the great Russian poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Krager conducted to a packed house of 6500 people. Maestro Krager made his European opera-conducting debut, in 2004, with the Stagione Lirica in the Tuscany region of Italy. This production of Puccini's "Tosca" was met with great enthusiasm by the Italian public and received rave reviews from the Italian press. In 2005 and again in 2008, Krager was invited to be a jury member for the prestigious Concurso Internacional de Piano Compositores de Espana in Madrid. In 2006, he was appointed as Artistic Consultant for the World Holocaust Forum Foundation's "Let My People Live," the International Forum in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the tragedy in Babi Yar, Kiev, Ukraine. This event garnered global media attention and included state delegations from several countries including the Presidents of Israel and Ukraine. Krager also directed a three-day international music festival in Houston celebrating the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. The "Jean Sibelius Festival 2006," like "Shostakovich 2000," drew people to Houston from across the U.S. and abroad.

Choral engagements include the Houston Symphony Chorus; the Chorus of the Gruppo Polifonico "Francesco Coradini," Corale Giacomo Puccini di Grosseto (Italy); and the Asaka Women's Chorus (Japan). Krager has worked with some of the pre-eminent artists of our time. In conjunction with the Moores School of Music, he has collaborated with Robert Shaw, William Warfield, Maxim Shostakovich, Marilyn Horne, John Corigliano, Joan Tower, Horacio Gutiérrez, and Sergei Leiferkus.

Krager is Professor of Conducting, Director of Orchestras, and Chair of the Conducting Department at the University of Houston Moores School of Music, where he has brought the orchestra and orchestral conducting program into the realm of national prominence. The Moores School Orchestra is heard frequently on National Public Radio and has commercially recorded the music of Michael Horvit, Peter Lieuwen, Robert Nelson, and Stephen Shewan on compact disc for Albany Records.

Maestro Krager is also Music Director & Chief Conductor of the Texas Music Festival, Founding Artistic Director of the Virtuosi of Houston, Artist-in-Residence at The Kinkaid School, Evaluator/Clinician for the Orchestra America National Festival, and has been a summer lecturer-in-residence at the Italart Santa Chiara Study Center, near Florence, Italy, since 1987.

Originally from Detroit, Krager's musical training included the study of percussion, piano, theory, composition, and conducting with Elizabeth A. H. Green at the University of Michigan. As a young conductor, Krager was one of a select group invited to participate in the famed Herbert von Karajan International Conducting Competition, winning acclaim in the Berlin press. "His appearance, his poise clearly reveal his experience," proclaimed the Berliner Morgenpost. In Amsterdam, the Haagsche Courant hailed him as a "great musical talent." England's Liverpool Daily Post stated that "American conductor Franz Anton Krager produced a performance full of life, vivacity and enthusiasm." The Leipziger Volkszeitung in Germany praised "Krager's unusual Schwung and Esprit brought to the Gewandhaus." In the American press, the Houston Chronicle has cited his "well-prepared earnestness; assured, committed performances; effectiveness; and heartfelt sincerity." The Tampa Tribune declared that the Florida West Coast Symphony organization "would be smart to grab Franz Anton Krager, who won over the sellout crowd..."

Maestro Krager has been active for over 25 years as a champion of new music, conducting and recording many premieres of works commissioned and/or produced from the Moores School of Music and Brazos Valley Symphony resident composer programs.

In 1984, after a six-year Assistant Professorship at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Krager relocated to Texas with appointments to the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra and Texas A&M University. His ensuing twelve-year tenure as Music Director of the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra and Brazos Sinfonietta was lauded by visiting artists of international stature as a model for regional orchestras in the United States.

Carlos Spierer

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Born in Stockholm in 1963, Carlos Spierer was raised in Berlin. Subsequent to his violin studies with Fredell Lack at the University of Houston, he studied conducting from 1984 to 1990 with Klauspeter Seibel at the Conservatory for Music in Hamburg. He attended several Master Classes including the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival with Leonard Bernstein in 1987, where he received first prize in the Conducting Competition.

His first engagement as a conductor and Assistant to the Music Director took him to the Kiel Opera from 1990-1995. Additional positions as Artistic and Music Director included the Gävle Symphony Orchestra in Sweden from 1997-2000, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería in Mexico City from 2003-2005, as well as the Young Symphony Orchestra of Hessen in 2007. From 2003-2011 Carlos Spierer was the Music Director of the Giessen Theatre.

In 1999 Spierer and the Hamburg Symphony recorded Paddington's First Concert and Poulenc's Babar the Elephant, which received the Echo Prize. Another recording with the Gävle Symphony Orchestra featuring works by the Swedish Composer Oscar Byström received "CD of the Year 1998" from the BBC Music Magazine.

Carlos Spierer has held guest conducting engagements with many renowned Orchestras and Opera Houses, including San Francisco Opera, Komische Oper Berlin, Frankfurt Opera, Estonian National Opera Tallinn, Karlsruhe Opera, German Chamber Philharmony Bremen, Brussels Radio Orchestra, Radio Symphony Orchestra Frankfurt, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires, the Costa Rica National Symphony Orchestra, the Saaremaa Festival in Estonia, Symphony Orchestra Odense, Orquesta Sinfonica de Paraíba, Philharmonic Ensemble and NHK Tokyo, NRK Radio Orchestra Oslo, Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Stockholm as well as the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, among others.


Leon Spierer, guest concertmaster (Week 2 only)

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Leon Spierer served as 1st concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from 1963 to 1993 under the batons of principal conductors Herbert von Karajan and Loren Maazel, among others. Before this, he was the first concertmaster of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra from 1958 to 1963. In 1969 he was awarded the Prize of German Music Critics for “versatility in the interpretation of different musical styles.”