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Emerging American conductor Christopher James Lees is widely recognized for his passionate and nuanced orchestral performances, his fierce commitment to contemporary music, and his natural charisma in front of audiences around the world.
Only the second American Gustavo Dudamel Conducting Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mr. Lees made his debut with the orchestra in April 2013 and returned for concerts in February 2015.
Recent and upcoming guest conducting engagements include performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Detroit, Milwaukee, Toledo, Portland (Maine), and Flint symphonies, as well as with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orchestra de Chambre de Paris, Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, and at the Music in the Mountains Festival & Festival Internacional de Inverno de Campos do Jordão in Brazil.
He has served as an Assistant Conductor for multiple concert programs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis, Kansas City and Charlotte symphonies and the Ulster and London Philharmonia Orchestras, for noted conductors including Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Herbert Blomstedt, Leonard Slatkin, David Robertson, Stéphane Danève, and Nicholas McGegan.
After two summers of study with Robert Spano at the Aspen Music Festival, Mr. Lees was named winner of both the 2011 James Conlon Conducting Prize and the 2012 Aspen Conducting Prizes, respectively. In 2013, Mr. Lees returned for a third summer as assistant conductor for the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Mr. Lees received a prestigious Career Assistance Grant from the Solti Foundation US and was previously showcased as one of six conductors selected for the 2011 Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation National Conductor Preview, hosted by the League of American Orchestras and Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
Trained as a pianist, and equally comfortable in the opera pit, Mr. Lees has been Music Director or Assistant Conductor on a wide array of operas, including Aida, Don Giovanni, Peter Grimes, John Harbison's The Great Gatsby, Mark Adamo's Little Women, Louis Andriessen's De Materie, and Philip Glass' the CIVIL warS.
A passionate advocate for contemporary music, Mr. Lees has commissioned many new works by a diverse collection of composers, and collaborated closely with Pulitzer Prize winners John Adams, William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Joseph Schwantner, Steven Stucky, Jennifer Higdon, and Roger Reynolds.
As Artistic Director for the University of Michigan's Contemporary Directions Ensemble, he pioneered illuminating programs that drew connections between innovative contemporary music and other specialty art forms, many in alternative spaces and concert formats.
A dedicated advocate for music education, Mr. Lees has led rehearsals and concerts for conservatory & honors orchestras across the country, including ensembles at the New England Conservatory, The Colburn School, Oberlin Conservatory, the University of Michigan, and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has also been a guest of the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles program in conjunction with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mr. Lees has previously served as Associate Conductor of the Akron Symphony Orchestra, where he conducted annually on every concert series possible and was awarded a Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation Career Development Grant. He was also only the second American recipient of a Benjamin Zander Conducting Fellowship with the Boston Philharmonic.
A native of Washington, D.C., Mr. Lees holds bachelors and master's degrees from the University of Michigan, and has studied conducting with Larry Rachleff and Robert Spano, as well as having participated in masterclasses with Lorin Maazel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Gustav Meier, and Jorma Panula.
Mr. Lees lives in North Carolina with his wife, new music soprano Lindsay Kesselman where he serves as Music Director for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Symphony Orchestra.
More information on Mr. Lees is available at www.christopherjameslees.com