Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Appoints Two Assistant Conductors

Francesco Lecce-Chong and Andrés Franco will join the symphony at the start of the 2015-2016 season.

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will welcome two new staff conductors at the start of the 2015-2016 season. Andrés Franco and Francesco Lecce-Chong both will join the symphony staff as assistant conductors.

Recently named music director of Tulsa’s Signature Symphony at TCC as well as assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Franco is also in his fifth season as principal conductor of the multimedia project Caminos del Inka and his third season as artistic director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Festival. Along with his conducting duties at the Pittsburgh Symphony, he’ll debut with the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra in the 2015-2016 season.

“I am very excited to be joining the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra team! I was in Pittsburgh for the season finale concerts and was very inspired by the passion, commitment and energy the orchestra brings to the stage,” says Franco. “This is truly one of the world’s great orchestras and it is an honor to work with Maestro Honeck and these wonderful musicians. I look forward to becoming part of the Pittsburgh Symphony family and getting to know and interact with our amazing audience, board and staff.”

A native of Colombia, Franco holds a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, as well as Master of Music degrees in piano performance and conducting from Texas Christian University.

Lecce-Chong comes to Pittsburgh after four years as associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He will return to Milwaukee in the 2015-2016 season for several guest engagements and will make his debut at the Florentine Opera. He will continue to serve as associate conductor of the Grand Teton Music Festival.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and look forward to working with Maestro Honeck, the musicians, staff and supporters,” says Lecce-Chong. “It is inspiring to join such a vibrant organization, with a rich history committed to the arts throughout its own city and the world. I am very excited to become a part of the Pittsburgh community and grateful for the opportunity to share in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s magnificent artistry.”

A native of Boulder, Colorado, where he began conducting at the age of 16, Lecce-Chong is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree with honors in piano and orchestral conducting. Lecce-Chong also holds a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied as a Martin and Sarah Taylor Fellow with Otto-Werner Mueller. He has been mentored by many world-renowned conductors, including Edo de Waart and Donald Runnicles, with whom he continues to maintain a close working relationship.

Lecce-Chong also has been named the music director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra (PYSO) and will conduct weekly rehearsals of the 95-member ensemble, which performs free concerts at Heinz Hall as well as outreach concerts in the Pittsburgh area. He succeeds Lawrence Loh who held the position for seven years.

As part of their assistant conductor positions, Lecce-Chong will lead the Fiddlesticks Family Concert Series Presented by Macy’s and Franco will lead the H.J. Heinz Audience of the Future and EQT Student Side by Side programs. Both will share conducting duties for the Tiny Tots and Schooltime concerts as well as outreach concerts and concerts that are part of the IUP Arts, Scottish Rite Cathedral Series in New Castle and Canady Symphony Series at WVU.

Franco, Andres_webRecently named music director of Tulsa’s Signature Symphony at TCC and assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Andrés Franco has established himself as a conductor to watch. He is currently in his fifth season as principal conductor of the multimedia project Caminos del Inka and his third season as artistic director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Festival, “Concerts in the Garden.” Franco’s 2014-2015 highlights included a subscription debuts with the Columbus and Fort Worth symphony orchestras, as well as return engagements with the Houston and Saint Louis symphonies. In 2015-2016, he will make subscription debuts with the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, and will return to conduct the Corpus Christi and Fort Worth symphony orchestras. A frequent guest conductor in the U.S., Europe and South America, Franco has appeared with the Elgin, El Paso, Eugene, Lake Forest, Mississippi, Springfield and Stockton symphony orchestras, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León/Spain and the National Symphony Orchestra of Peru, as well as with the National Symphony, Bogota Philharmonic, Medellin Philharmonic and EAFIT Symphony Orchestra in Colombia. Festival appearances include the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the Oregon Bach Festival and the Wintergreen Music Festival in Virginia. Franco formerly served as music director of the Philharmonia of Kansas City (2004-2010), associate and resident conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony (2009-2014), and Leonard Slatkin’s assistant conductor during the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (2013). A native of Colombia, Franco is dedicated to preserving and performing the music of the Americas. As principal conductor of Caminos del Inka, he has led many performances of Latin American music by composers of our time, such as Jimmy López, Diego Luzuriaga and the popular Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla. Born into a musical family, Franco began piano studies with his father, Jorge Franco. An accomplished pianist, he studied with Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Jose Feghali and attended piano workshops with Rudolph Buchbinder in Switzerland and Lev Naumov in France.  He studied conducting with Marin Alsop, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Kurt Masur, Gustav Meier, Helmut Rilling, Gerard Schwarz and Leonard Slatkin. Franco holds a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, as well as Master of Music degrees in piano performance and conducting from Texas Christian University. Franco is married to Victoria Luperi, principal clarinetist in the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

Lecce Chong, Francesco_webAmerican conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong has worked with orchestras around the world including engagements with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. With the start of the 2015-2016 season, he begins his new position as assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra after serving four years as associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO). He will return to the MSO throughout the season for several guest engagements and will make his opera debut with the Florentine Opera. He also will continue as associate conductor of the Grand Teton Music Festival. Lecce-Chong has earned a growing reputation and critical acclaim for dynamic, forceful performances, garnering national distinction, including the Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award and The Presser Foundation Music Award. He has also been featured in master classes with Bernard Haitink, David Zinman, David Robertson and Christopher Seaman, while working with the St. Louis Symphony, National Arts Center Orchestra and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich. As a trained pianist and composer, Lecce-Chong embraces innovative programming, champions the work of new composers and supports arts education. While working with the MSO, he curated and presented the works of both active and lesser-known composers, including two works commissioned by the orchestra, as well as two U.S. premieres. He also helped create the first MSO Composer Institute, providing performance opportunities for young American composers. Lecce-Chong has complemented his programming with a strong commitment to arts education for all ages. In Milwaukee, he provided artistic leadership for the MSO’s nationally lauded Arts in Community Education program — one of the largest arts integration programs in the country — and he continues to be a frequent guest speaker for arts organizations around the country. Lecce-Chong is a native of Boulder, Colorado, where he began conducting at the age of 16. He is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree with honors in piano and orchestral conducting. Lecce-Chong also holds a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied as a Martin and Sarah Taylor Fellow with Otto-Werner Mueller. He has been mentored by many world-renowned conductors, including Edo de Waart and Donald Runnicles, with whom he continues to maintain a close working relationship.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, known for its artistic excellence for more than 119 years, is credited with a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians, and a strong commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its citizens. Past music directors have included Fritz Reiner (1938-1948), William Steinberg (1952-1976), Andre Previn (1976-1984), Lorin Maazel (1984-1996) and Mariss Jansons (1995-2004).  This tradition of outstanding international music directors was furthered in fall 2008, when Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck became music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The orchestra has been at the forefront of championing new American works, and gave the first performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah” in 1944 and John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine in 1986. The Pittsburgh Symphony has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. As early as 1936, the Pittsburgh Symphony broadcast on the airwaves coast-to-coast and in the late 1970s it made the ground breaking PBS series “Previn and the Pittsburgh.” The orchestra has received increased national attention since 1982 through network radio broadcasts on Public Radio International, produced by Classical WQED-FM 89.3, made possible by the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. With a long and distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1900—including 36 international tours to Europe, the Far East and South America—the Pittsburgh Symphony continues to be critically acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras.

Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts is owned and operated by Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc., a non-profit organization, and is the year-round home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The cornerstone of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, Heinz Hall also hosts many other events that do not feature its world-renowned orchestra, including Broadway shows, comedians, speakers and much more. For a full calendar of upcoming non-symphony events at the hall, visit heinzhall.org.

 



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