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CHRISTOPHER JAMES LEES is a promising young American conductor becoming increasingly recognized for his energized and nuanced performances of both standard and adventurous repertoire.
In 2011/2012, Lees made debuts with the Detroit, Toledo, and Portland (Maine) Symphonies and served as an assistant conductor for multiple concert programs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, and Atlanta Symphony for Robert Spano, Leonard Slatkin, Stéphane Denève, Bramwell Tovey, and many others. He has also previously appeared in performance with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, and at the Festival Internacional de Inverno de Campos do Jordao in Brazil, among others.
After two summers of study with Robert Spano at the Aspen Music Festival, Lees was named winner of both the 2011 James Conlon Conducting Prize and the 2012 Aspen Conducting Prizes, respectively. In 2013, Lees will return for a third summer as Assistant Conductor for the Aspen Music Festival.
Lees was honored as one of only six conductors selected for the 2011 Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation National Conductor Preview, hosted by the League of American Orchestras and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
Trained as a pianist and equally comfortable in the opera pit, Lees has been music director for full productions of Don Giovanni and Little Women, and was assistant conductor for The Great Gatsby by John Harbison with the Aspen Opera Theater Center.
A passionate advocate for music of our time, Lees has given numerous performances of contemporary orchestral and chamber repertoire, and has collaborated closely with Pulitzer Prize winning composers William Bolcom, Joseph Schwantner, Jennifer Higdon, and Roger Reynolds, among others. As Music Director for the Contemporary Directions Ensemble, Lees gained a reputation for conducting premiere performances, many in alternative concert formats, and curating innovative programs that connect contemporary chamber music with diverse art forms.
Lees holds a master’s degree in conducting from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Kenneth Kiesler. He received a Zander Conducting Fellowship from the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and, in 2008, was awarded a Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation Career Development Grant with the Akron Symphony Orchestra.