Robert Franz

As Music Director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and the 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 and composers. In increasing demand as a guest conductor, Franz’s recent appearances include The Cleveland Orchestra, the Baltimore, St. Louis and Victoria Symphonies, and the Orchestra da Camera Fiorentina in Italy. His guest conducting appearances for this season include the Winston-Salem Symphony, the Reno Chamber Orchestra and Opera Idaho.

In his sixth season as Windsor Symphony’s Music Director, Franz was recently recognized by The Windsor Endowment for the Arts with its Arts Leadership Award in Performing Arts. The WSO celebrated its 70th season last year and enjoyed its best year to-date, which included a record seven sold-out performances. Recent collaborations include the Windsor International Film Festival, the Art Gallery of Windsor, the Canadian Historical Aviation Association and the University of Windsor. The WSO’s 2018/2019 season will showcase Franz’s versatility with programs such as the Canadian premiere of Heather Schmidt’s Lunar Reflections (full orchestra version), collaboration with the Toronto-based Kamancello, an ensemble dedicated to building bridges between western classical music and middle eastern music, and the world premiere of Scylla, Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra by composer Jordan Pal.

Franz is celebrating his 11th season as Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony where he was recently honored as the first member of the Symphony conducting staff with the Raphael Fliegel Award for Visionary Leadership. It was presented to Franz in recognition of his immense success in advancing the organization’s 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. During his tenure, attendance at family and educational concerts has almost doubled.

Franz marks his ninth year as Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Orchestra Music Director by directing the festival orchestra and mentoring aspiring conductors. In past years, he has brought the orchestra to Denali National Park and Preserve in a performance that marked the first time an orchestra had performed there.

As Founder and Music Director of the Idaho Orchestra Institute, now in its second year, Franz oversees an intensive experience designed for college and advanced high school musicians.

ASCAP has recognized Franz on two occasions for his advocacy in arts education. Under his direction, both the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Louisville Orchestra were awarded the Leonard Bernstein Award for Educational Programming.

Donald Schleicher

Music Director and Conductor Donald Schleicher is Professor of Music, Director of Orchestras, and Daniel J. Perrino Chair in Music at the University of Illinois. American conductor Donald Schleicher has also served as Music Director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and as Music Director and Principal Conductor/Artistic Director for the Pine Mountain Music Festival.

Schleicher has conducted the National Philharmonic of the Ukraine, the Guiyang (China) Symphony, the Gwangju (South Korea) Symphony, the Inchon (South Korea) Philharmonic, the Daegu (South Korea) Symphony Orchestra, the Orquesta Filarmonica de la UNAM of Mexico City, the South Dakota Symphony, and the orchestras of Bridgeport, Tallahassee, and Lansing. He has also appeared as a guest conductor at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival in Detroit. In 2016, he guest conducted the Nairobi Orchestra in Kenya and in 2019, he will lead concerts with the China Conservatory of Music Symphony in Beijing.

He is frequently invited to lead performances or provide conducting master classes at many of the countries major music schools such as the University of Colorado, the University of Texas, Oberlin Conservatory, Eastman School of Music, Baylor University, University of Minnesota, Ithaca College, Ohio State University, the University of Missouri, and Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. As an enthusiastic advocate of public school music education, Mr. Schleicher has conducted All-State orchestras, festivals, and youth orchestras in nearly every state. He is also active as a clinician for public school music educators.

As a conducting professor, Mr. Schleicher’s class at Illinois is an international draw for talented young conductors. Many of his former conducting students have gone on to hold prestigious positions with organizations such as the San Francisco Symphony, the Hartford Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, Richmond Philharmonic, and the University of Chicago. Schleicher has taught conducting in Europe every summer for the past ten years having served as the lead teacher for the International Conducting Workshop and Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria and Lviv, Ukraine. In addition, he has led workshops for the International Conducting Institute in Kromeriz, Czech Republic, the New York Conducting Institute, the Ithaca College International Conducting Workshop, and the Conducting Master Class and Workshop Series in Chicago.

As a dedicated advocate of contemporary music, Donald has collaborated with leading composers including Chen Yi, Michael Daugherty, and Frank Ticheli among many others. In December of 2014, his collaboration with Augusta Read Thomas led to a recording project of her works now available on Nimbus Records.