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2017 Biographies — Orchestra/Composing

Robert Franz

Robert Franz

Music Director, FSAF Orchestra

As Music Director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Orchestra, and Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony, Robert Franz’s appeal as a first-rate conductor and enthusiastic award-winning educator is acclaimed by critics, composers and audiences of all ages.

Maestro Franz is in increasing demand as a guest conductor whose recent engagements include appearances with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Baltimore and St. Louis Symphonies, and the Orchestra da Camera Fiorentina in Italy. This season he will add several concerts with the Phoenix Symphony to his active guest conducting schedule. Maestro Franz has worked with some of today’s finest classical soloists, including James Galway, Joshua Bell and Rachel Barton Pine, as well as top pops artists such as Chris Botti, Idina Menzel and Judy Collins.

In his fourth season as the Windsor Symphony’s Music Director, Franz has made a positive impact on the community resulting in the extension of the number of Windsor Symphony subscription weeks. Known for galvanizing audiences and communities alike, he has developed collaborations with the Windsor International Film Festival, the Art Gallery of Windsor, the Canadian Historical Aviation Association, The University of Windsor and St. Clair College. The debut of Canadian astronaut and folk guitarist, Chris Hadfield performing original works inspired by his experiences in space was met with great enthusiasm. Highlights of his 2015-16 season included sold out performances of La Boehme as part of an opera festival, the Canadian chamber opera, Pat and Emilia, and a highly acclaimed Mozart mini-festival.

As Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony Franz was recently honored as the first member of the Symphony conducting staff with the Raphael Fliegel Award for Visionary Leadership. He continues to lead the Symphony in a broad range of creative educational and family concerts, including its summer neighborhood concert series, an outreach program dedicated to bringing music to all of Houston’s communities. Recent highlights include the world premiere of music from the iconic TV series School House Rock for orchestra. During his tenure, attendance at family and educational concerts has almost doubled.

Marking his seventh year as Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Orchestra Music Director, Franz, a passionate music educator, continues to provide artistic experiences for talented amateur musicians and students alike. In addition to directing the festival orchestra, he mentors aspiring conductors with his newly created “Art of Conducting” workshop. A champion of new music, this season Franz will lead the festival chorus in the world premiere of Emerson Eads’ Mass for the Oppressed.

ASCAP has recognized Franz on two occasions for his advocacy in arts education. Under his direction, both the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in 2008 and the Louisville Orchestra in 2001 were awarded the Leonard Bernstein Award for Educational Programming. Franz’s expertise in music education was recognized by the Idaho Legislature recently when he was invited to speak about its importance to the education committee. Franz was also invited to speak at the League of American Orchestra conference on the topic of New Music: Opportunities to Broaden Audiences.

In addition to his current posts, Franz served as the Music Director of the Boise Philharmonic from 2008-2015, The Mansfield Symphony in Ohio from 2003-2010, Resident Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic from 2005-2009, and Associate Conductor of the Louisville Orchestra from 1997-2006. He continues to serve as Music Director Emeritus of the Carolina Chamber Symphony, an orchestra that he founded, and provides educational programming workshops at the National Repertory Orchestra during the summer.


Stephen Lias

Stephen Lias

Composition

Adventurer-Composer Stephen Lias has been Artist-in-Residence at Rocky Mountain, Denali, Glacier, and Gates of the Arctic National Parks. His compositions have been performed throughout the world including premieres of “Mount Rainier Search and Rescue” in Taiwan, “Kings Canyon” in Australia, and “Gates of the Arctic” by the Boulder Philharmonic in Colorado. “The Timberline Sonata” was featured in the Fall 2011 issue of National Parks Magazine and his recent CD includes new pieces about Yosemite, Mesa Verde, and Denali National Parks. Also active as a writer and photographer, he is the creator of FSAF’s “Composing in the Wilderness” class, and his passion for the outdoors, along with his engaging teaching style, makes him an ideal facilitator for this unusual field seminar.


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