Selected Institute Participants Lead Rochester Philharmonic on Thursday

June 24, 2011

More Information:
For Media Only: Helene Snihur (585-274-1057,
For The Public: Eastman School of Music Concert Office, 585-274-1110

Local audiences will have the opportunity to see the next James Levine or Sarah Caldwell when several up-and-coming conductors take the baton in front of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra next month.

The rising orchestral leaders will be participants in Eastman School of Music’s Summer Conducting Institute, an intensive five-day program with sessions on topics like conducting technique, score presentation, opera conducting, community collaboration, making a successful guest appearance, and other artistic and career issues.

As part of the program, each young conductor will have the opportunity to rehearse Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra musicians, who will then select up to five conductors to lead them in a public performance on Thursday, July 21, at 7:30 p.m. in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Tickets range from $15 to $25 (discount with UR ID) and are available at the Eastman Theatre Box Office. Audience members will be given a questionnaire that invites them to share their comments and reactions to each of the conductors.

The Summer Conducting Institute was founded and has been directed by Neil Varon for the past six years. Prior to joining the Eastman School as professor of conducting in 2002, he held the position of principal conductor at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Duesseldorf-Duisburg and General Music Director of the Musiktheater im Review in Gelsenkirchen. As a guest conductor, Varon has conducted at the New York City Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Stuttgart State Opera, and the Deutsche Staatsoper (Unter den Linden) Berlin. In 1991 and 1992, Varon led the Tokyo Philharmonic in a series of performances of The Magic Flute for the anniversary Mozart Festival in Tokyo.

The talented participants in the Summer Conducting Institute have already been chosen. The seven men and three women come from the United States, Canada, and Taiwan. Representing the next generation of conductors, they’ve already led such ensembles as the Richmond Symphony, the London Soloists Chamber Orchestra, the Macon Symphony Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Symphony, the Fort Worth Symphony, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the British Columbia Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Academy Orchestra, and others in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The finalists who will conduct the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will be chosen from the 10 participants in the Summer Conducting Institute:

  • Mark Tse has studied violin, saxophone and jazz; taught and conducted high school ensembles for 11 years; and will start his doctoral studies in music education at the University of Western Ontario this fall.
  • Michelle Merrill is assistant conductor of the Meadows Symphony Orchestra at Southern Methodist University, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in orchestral conducting. She has led ensembles in the Czech Republic and in the United States.
  • Troy Quinn is founder and music director of the Portsmouth Institute Orchestra of Rhode Island. He is the recipient of several conducting fellowships and awards and has conducted ensembles in the United States and abroad.
  • Ching-Chun Lai joins the faculty of SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music this fall. The recipient of several honors and awards, she holds degree in aeronautics and astronautics engineering, conducting, and music education.
  • Chaowen Ting won the 2009 International Conductors’ Workshop and Competition. She is the founder, music director, and conductor of Cincinnati Sinfonietta, and has appeared with orchestras and ensembles in North America, Europe, and Taiwan.
  • Mark Powell is the founding music director of the American Radio Chamber Orchestra. As managing artistic director at Houston’s Hobby Center for the Performing Arts’ Uniquely Houston program, he initiated the Discovery Series concerts. He has conducted orchestras in Europe and in the United States.
  • William Buhidar was conductor/artistic director of the Mozart Madness Festival celebrating the Mozart Bicentennial and conductor/music director of the USS Lexington’s Fourth of July flight deck concerts. He has also conducted opera productions and been featured on National Public Radio’s Performance Today.
  • Brandon Eldredge is assistant orchestra director at The College of New Jersey, where he works with the College Orchestra, several instrumental chamber ensembles, and as assistant conductor for Lyric Theater and Chorale.
  • Christopher Unger studied horn and was in demand as a freelance musician. He has a master’s degree in wind conducting, has participated in a number of conducting workshops, and was the assistant conductor of the Eastman Wind Orchestra and the Eastman Wind Ensemble.
  • Jerry Hou is a prize-winning trombonist who studied contemporary music performance with Pierre Boulez and conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He has conducted orchestras across Europe and collaborated with such new music composers as Harrison Birtwistle.

Participants in the conducting institute, which takes place July 16 through 21, were selected based on a video recorded audition. Varon and Rochester Philharmonic musicians will select, in consultation, which conductors will appear with the Orchestra in the July 21 public concert.

Complete bios and photos of all the participants can be found online at

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Calendar Listing:

Thursday, July 21

Conductors! The Next Generation

Conductors from Eastman School of Music’s Summer Conducting Institute conduct the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra

7:30 p.m.

Kodak Hall, 60 Gibbs St.

Tickets: Box Seats $25; All other seats $15 General Admission  (discount with U/R ID).

Available at the Eastman Theatre Box Office, 433 East Main Street; by phone: 585-454-2100.

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