Robert Franz, WSO Music Director
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. Composer Bright Sheng praised Franz for his “extremely musical and passionate approach towards music making” and critics hail his “masterly pace, emphasis, and technical control”, calling his conducting “viscerally thrilling”.
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. Earlier guest conducting appearances include Canada’s Victoria Symphony and the Rochester Philharmonic, North Carolina, Columbus, Virginia, and San Antonio Symphonies, as well as Musiqa (Houston), Asheville Lyric Opera, the Portland Symphony (ME), South Bend Symphony, and the Idaho Falls Symphony. With a wide and varying knowledge of symphonic and operatic works, 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 in a presentation of Joan of Arc, 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. Last season included the orchestral debut of Firesound, a band made up entirely of Toronto firefighters who won the season debut of “Canada Sings”. 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. It was presented to him in recognition of his immense success in advancing the organizations educational and community engagement activities. 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. The Louisville Orchestra’s award led to the creation of an education program for Kentucky Educational Television entitled, Creating Music and Stories. Winner of the 2008 BPO/ECMEA Music Educators Award for Excellence, Franz is a avid supporter of arts education, and has created arts education programs for the Carolina Chamber Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Louisville Orchestra, West End Chamber Ensemble and the Winston-Salem Piedmont Triad Symphony, including that organization’s innovative Bolton Research Project. As Associate Conductor of the Louisville Orchestra, he re-vitalized an ASCAP award-winning new music concert series, and served as co-host of In a Different Key, a weekly contemporary classical music radio program on WUOL.
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. Strengthening his commitment to bringing music education to young people, Franz is developing his first children’s book with a CD entitled, Stella’s Magical Musical Tour of America. The project has inspired him to create a family concert that introduces children to classical music by incorporating various musical excerpts intertwined throughout the story of a girl’s journey in a hot air balloon.
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 has also led the Winston-Salem Piedmont Triad Symphony, the Louisville Youth Orchestra, and the Winston-Salem Youth Symphony. 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.
Franz received his Master of Music degree in conducting and his Bachelor of Music degree in oboe performance from the North Carolina School of the Arts. He has participated in conducting workshops in the Czech Republic, St. Petersburg (Russia), Nashville, the Festival at Sandpoint and was a participant in the 2005 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview.
When not on the podium, Franz is an avid runner and a proponent of the Alexander technique. Visit robertfranz.com for more.