We proudly introduce six acclaimed conductors to lead the orchestra this season as our Artistic Partners, each brining a new and diverse voice to the podium.
Hailed for presenting engaging, in-depth explorations of thoughtfully curated programs, Brett Mitchell concluded his tenure as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony in 2021. Brett is in consistent demand as a guest conductor, making his debut with the San Francisco Symphony in July 2019, and has served as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra and Assistant Conductor of the Houston Symphony.
In addition to his work with professional orchestras, Mr. Mitchell is also well known for his affinity for working with and mentoring young musicians. His tenure as Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra was highly praised, and included a four-city tour of China in 2015. Mr. Mitchell holds degrees in conducting from the University of Texas at Austin and composition from Western Washington University, which selected him as its Young Alumnus of the Year in 2014. Mr. Mitchell was also one of five recipients of the League of American Orchestras’ American Conducting Fellowship from 2007 to 2010.
Grammy-nominated conductor Ward Stare, hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “A rising-star in the conducting firmament,” served as Music Director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra from 2014-2021. In demand worldwide, Stare has led symphony and opera orchestras in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Toronto, Miami (New World), Rome (Italy), Japan, Oslo (Norway), Sydney (Australia), and the DSO-Berlin. Stare served as resident conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra from 2008- 2012 and returns frequently as a guest.
A passionate advocate for arts education, Stare is a Distinguished Artist at the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings. In 2016, he recorded Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra, by R.E.M. bassist/songwriter Mike Mills with the ensemble and its founder, Robert McDuffie. An enthusiastic collaborator and performer of new music, Stare gave the world premiere of Pravda, by Academy Award-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal and the regional premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis’ Flute Concerto, featuring Marina Piccinini.
Kensho Watanabe is fast becoming one of the most exciting and versatile young conductors on the international stage. He held the position of Assistant Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra from 2016 to 2019 and was previously an inaugural conducting fellow of the Curtis Institute of Music under the mentorship of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Recent highlights include debuts with the London Philharmonic and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as his Finnish debut with the Jyväskylä Sinfonia. Equally at home in both symphonic and operatic repertoire, Watanabe has led numerous operas with the Curtis Opera Theatre and served as Assistant Conductor on a new production of Strauss’s Elektra at Montreal Opera.
Watanabe was recently recognized with a Career Assistance Award by the Solti Foundation U.S. An accomplished violinist, Mr. Watanabe received his Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music and is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with distinguished conducting pedagogue Otto-Werner Mueller.
Kyle Dickson is quickly building a reputation as an innovative and compelling presence on the podium. Recipient of the 2021 GPMF Advocate for Arts Award, he is a Salonen Conducting Fellow with the San Francisco Symphony under the guidance of Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen. In 2021 he became the recipient of the Richard S. Weinert Award from Concert Artists Guild.
Dickson is assistant conductor of the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles and previously served as Music Director of Chicago’s South Loop Symphony. He was a conducting fellow at the 2021 National Orchestral Institute’s Conducting Academy with Marin Alsop and James Ross, and from 2019 to 2021 was a Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellow with Chicago. In 2020, he was selected as assistant conductor of Spoleto Festival USA for the world premiere of Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels’s opera Omar.
Beginning his career as a violinist, Mr. Dickson was a prizewinner at the 2010 NANM National Concerto Competition. In 2021, he earned his master’s degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University studying with Victor Yampolsky. He also received degrees in violin performance from Michigan State University and DePaul University.
Spanish-American conductor François López-Ferrer came to international attention after a critically acclaimed debut at the 2018 Verbier Festival, where he jumped in for Iván Fischer in a shared program with Sir Simon Rattle and Gébor Takécs-Nagy. In demand as a guest conductor, López-Ferrer’s recent and upcoming highlights include debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orquesta Nacional de España, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, among others. López-Ferrer is one of six participants to be featured in the 2022 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. He previously served as Associate Conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Chile (OSNCH), Principal Conductor of the Ballet Nacional Chileno, and was the youngest ever Conductor-in-Residence of the OSNCH’s Summer Concert Series.
Conductor Linhan Cui has established herself as a sought-after artist who recently won second prize in the Malko International Conducting Competition. With natural expressivity at the core of her work, her experience includes performances with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Korean Symphony Orchestra, and the Xinghai Symphony Orchestra, among others. As an Assistant Conductor, Linhan has worked with many world-renowned maestros including Leon Fleisher and Xian Zhang.
Linhan is Gustavo Dudamel’s Conducting Fellow for the 2022-2023 season, performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. During the 2019-2020 season, she was appointed Conducting Fellow by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra where she had the privilege of serving as Marin Alsop’s cover conductor.
Cui was born in Shenyang, China and began her piano study at the age of 4. She started conducting at age 18 when she was the only accepted student at the Xinghai Conservatory, China. She holds a Master of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory and is currently pursuing doctoral studies in orchestral conducting at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, under the guidance of Arthur Fagen.