2023 Guest Conductors

July 1, 2023

Portrait of Conductor Ward Stare

Ward Stare

Grammy-nominated conductor Ward Stare, hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “A rising-star in the conducting firmament”, was Music Director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra from 2014 – 2021. He has been praised for “inspiring musicians to impressive heights” by The New York Times, and as “a dynamic music director” by Rochester CITY Newspaper. In demand as a guest conductor, Stare has conducted the Symphony Orchestras of Baltimore, Sydney (Australia), Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (Germany), Pittsburgh, Grant Park (Chicago), Atlanta, Detroit, Toronto as well as the New World Symphony and Calgary Philharmonic.

Stare made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 2017, conducting nine performances of Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow, with Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in the title role. Stare’s frequent collaborations with the Lyric Opera of Chicago began in 2012, conducting a production of Hansel and Gretel, returning in 2013 for Die Fledermaus, and again in 2014 to lead Porgy and Bess to rave reviews. Stare served as resident conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra from 2008 to 2012 and, in 2009, made his highly successful Carnegie Hall debut with the orchestra, stepping in to lead H. K. Gruber’s Frankenstein.

As a passionate advocate for arts education, Ward Stare has served as a Distinguished Artist at the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University since 2012. In the fall of 2016, Stare recorded Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra, by R.E.M. bassist and songwriter Mike Mills, with the ensemble and its founder, Robert McDuffie. Stare is an enthusiastic collaborator and performer of new music, including the world premiere performance of ‘Pravda’, by Academy Award-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal and the regional premiere of Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis’ Flute Concerto, performed by Marina Piccinini.

In the Spring of 2019, Stare and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra released American Rapture, featuring the world-premiere recordings of Jennifer Higdon’s ‘Harp Concerto’, with Yolanda Kondonassis as soloist. The album garnered two Grammy nominations, with Higdon’s Harp Concerto winning the Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in January 2020. Ward Stare was trained as a trombonist at The Juilliard School in Manhattan. At 18, he was appointed principal trombonist of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and has performed as an orchestral musician with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, among others. As a soloist, he has concertized in both the U.S. and Europe.

July 6, 2023

Photo of Marcelo Lehninger conductor

Marcelo Lehninger

Brazilian-born Marcelo Lehninger was appointed Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony in 2016. In 2018, he brought the orchestra to Carnegie Hall, its first performance at the famed venue in thirteen years. He previously served as Music Director of the New West Symphony in Los Angeles, for which the League of American Orchestras awarded him the Helen H. Thompson Award for Emerging Music Directors. For five years, Marcelo served as Assistant and then Associate Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Lehninger’s 2021-22 season included debuts with the San Antonio Symphony, Peninsula Music Festival, and the Prague Philharmonia in the Czech Republic, and return engagements to the Sarasota Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, and the Minas Gerais Philharmonic in Brazil.

As a guest conductor, Mr. Lehninger has led some of the leading orchestras in the United States, including the Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Houston, Detroit, Baltimore, Seattle symphonies; the Florida, Louisville and Sarasota Orchestras; and the Rochester, Orlando, New Mexico, and Colorado Springs Philharmonics. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2011 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. 

European engagements include the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Lucerne Symphony, regular visits to the Slovenian Philharmonic, including on tour to Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, and a tour with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra assisting Mariss Jansons.

Mr. Lehninger was Music Advisor of The Orchestra of the Americas for the 2007-08 season. In summer of 2008, he toured with the orchestra in South America, conducting concerts in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. He has led all of the top orchestras in Brazil, and served as Associate Conductor of the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra, where he returns regularly as guest conductor.

He has served as Kurt Masur’s assistant with the Orchestre National de France (during their residency at the Musikverein in Vienna), Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, and the New York Philharmonic.

Before dedicating his career to conducting, Mr. Lehninger studied violin and piano. He holds a Master’s degree from the Conductors Institute at New York’s Bard College, where he studied conducting under Harold Farberman and composition with Laurence Wallach. A dual citizen of Brazil and Germany, Marcelo Goulart Lehninger is the son of pianist Sônia Goulart and violinist Erich Lehninger.

July 10, 2023

Portrait of Conductor Ken Lam

Ken Lam

Ken Lam is director of orchestral studies at The Tianjin Juilliard School and resident conductor of the Tianjin Juilliard Orchestra. He is artistic adviser of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, resident conductor of the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina and serves as artistic director of Hong Kong Voices.

Lam was music director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra from 2015 to 2022 and music director of Illinois Symphony Orchestra from 2017 to 2022. Previously, Lam also held positions as associate conductor for education of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and principal conductor of the Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra.

 In 2011, Lam won the Memphis Symphony Orchestra International Conducting Competition and was a featured conductor in the League of American Orchestra’s 2009 Bruno Walter National Conductors Preview with the Nashville Symphony. He made his US professional debut with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in June 2008, as one of four conductors selected by Leonard Slatkin. In recent seasons, he led performances with the symphony orchestras of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Pops, Baltimore, Detroit, Buffalo, Memphis, Hawaii, Brevard and Meridian, as well as the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Seungnam Philharmonic, Guiyang Symphony, and the Taipei Symphony Orchestra.

 In opera, he directed numerous productions of the Janiec Opera Company at Brevard and was assistant conductor at Cincinnati Opera, Baltimore Lyric Opera and at the Castleton Festival. In recent seasons, Lam led critically acclaimed productions at the Spoleto Festival USA, Lincoln Center Festival and at the Luminato Festival in Canada. His run of Massenet’s Manon at Peabody Conservatory was hailed by the Baltimore Sun as a top ten classical event in the Washington D.C/Baltimore area in 2010.

 Lam studied conducting with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar at Peabody Conservatory, David Zinman and Murry Sidlin at the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen, and Leonard Slatkin at the National Conducting Institute. He read economics at St. John’s College, Cambridge University and was an attorney specializing in international finance for ten years before becoming a conductor.

 Lam is the 2015 recipient of the John Hopkins University Alumni Association’s Global Achievement Award, given to individuals who exemplify the Johns Hopkins tradition of excellence and have brought credit to the University and their profession in the international arena.

July 14, 2023

Portrait of Conductor Joshua Weilerstein

Joshua Weilerstein

Joshua Weilerstein enjoys a flourishing guest conducting career across the globe and has forged close relationships with many of the world’s finest orchestras and soloists. He is praised for his expressive and dynamic presence on the podium and for his “intense, eloquently moving and spectacularly knife-edge” performances.

With a repertoire that spans from the Renaissance era to the music of today, he combines a deep love for canonical masterpieces alongside a passionate commitment to uncovering the works of under-represented composers such as Pavel Haas, William Grant Still, William Levi Dawson, Ethel Smyth, among others. He is also a tireless advocate for the music of today, championing the works of Caroline Shaw, Jörg Widmann, Derrick Skye, Christopher Rouse, and more. In September 2021 he marked the end of his six-year tenure as Artistic Director of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne with two concerts at the Enescu Festival, featuring soloists Cristian Budu and Christian Teztlaff.

Highlights of Weilerstein’s 21/22 season included return engagements with the Oslo Philharmonic, NDR Hannover Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Belgian National, and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestras, along with debuts with the Seattle Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Kammerakademie Potsdam, Komische Oper Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lille, and RTE National Symphony orchestras amongst others. 

In recent seasons, Weilerstein’s guest engagements have included concerts with the London Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Finnish Radio Symphony, Tonhalle Zurich and in the US the San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia, and New York Philharmonic orchestras.  During his time as Artistic Director of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Weilerstein was instrumental in expanding the orchestra’s repertoire and together they released successful and critically acclaimed recordings of music by Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Smyth, and Ives along with a complete Beethoven symphony cycle on DVD, and toured throughout Europe, with soloists such as Juan Diego Florez, Lucas Debargue, and Albrecht Mayer.

Born into a musical family, Weilerstein’s formative experience with classical music was as a violinist on tour to Panama and Guatemala with the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra of Boston, where the orchestra performed for thousands of young people who had never heard a live orchestra concert. This experience sparked a desire in Weilerstein to pursue a career in classical music. He then earned his Master’s degree in violin and conducting at New England Conservatory, where he was one of two chosen for the first class of the highly competitive conductors training program led by Hugh Wolff. While still a student and never having conducted a professional orchestra, Weilerstein won both the First Prize and the Audience Prize at the Malko Competition for Young Conductors in Copenhagen in 2009. He was subsequently appointed as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic, where he served from 2012-2015. In the 2021/2022 season he returned to Boston to serve as the Music Director of Phoenix, a dynamic and ambitious orchestra devoted to creating unforgettable experiences with classical music.

In 2017, inspired by the brilliant musical evangelism practised by Leonard Bernstein, Weilerstein launched a classical music podcast called “Sticky Notes.” The show, for both music lovers and newcomers alike, has become wildly successful with more than 3 million downloads in 165 countries.  

July 18, 2023

Portrait of Conner Gray Covington

Conner Gray Covington

Described as “a musician who lives the music” by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Conner Gray Covington is one of the most versatile conductors of his generation. Covington recently completed a four-year tenure with the Utah Symphony as Associate Conductor and as Principal Conductor of the Deer Valley® Music Festival. During his tenure in Utah, Covington conducted nearly 300 performances of classical subscription, education, film, pops, and family concerts as well as tours throughout the state.

In the 2022-2023 season, he makes return visits to the North Carolina Symphony, San Diego Symphony, and Utah Symphony and debuts with the Bellingham Festival of Music while also serving as visiting faculty at the Longy School of Music. Covington also returns to the opera world with performances of Britten’s Turn of the Screw at the New England Conservatory and a new production of Tod Machover’s VALIS as part of MIT’s Opera of the Future project featuring Davón Tines. A four-time recipient of a Career Assistance Award from the Solti Foundation U.S., Covington was featured in the 2016 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview.

In recent seasons Covington has appeared with the symphonies of Amarillo, Fort Wayne, Kansas City, Monterey (CA), Nashville, Omaha, Portland, St. Louis, and Virginia as well as the Oregon Mozart Players and Reno Chamber Orchestra. He has served as cover conductor for the Atlanta Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, San Diego Symphony and the Florentine Opera Company. Covington has also worked with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich as part of the 6th International David Zinman Conducting Masterclass. In 2014, Covington was selected by members of the Vienna Philharmonic to attend the Salzburg Festival as a recipient of the Ansbacher Fellowship for Young Conductors. In 2012, he competed in the prestigious Malko Conducting Competition in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he conducted the Danish National Symphony for a jury headed by Lorin Maazel and was the youngest participant to advance to the third round. Covington also worked with the New Japan Philharmonic in the 2012 Tokyo International Conducting Competition and advanced to the semi-final round.

Covington studied conducting at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he worked closely with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, with whom he made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2016, and the Curtis Opera Theater while being mentored by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. While at Curtis, he also performed in masterclasses of Marin Alsop, Stéphane Denève, Vladimir Jurowski, and Michael Tilson Thomas. He also studied with Neil Varon at the Eastman School of Music where he earned the Walter Hagen Conducting Prize. For two summers, Covington attended the Aspen Conducting Academy at the Aspen Music Festival and School where he worked closely with Robert Spano, Larry Rachleff, and Hugh Wolff. He also spent two summers as a student at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors.

Born in Louisiana, Covington grew up in East Tennessee and began playing the violin at age 11. He completed high school at the renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. He then went on to study violin with Dr. Martha Walvoord and conducting with Dr. Clifton Evans at the University of Texas at Arlington where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in violin performance.

He currently lives in Boston with his wife Mischa and their two cats, Razel and Oreo.