World-renowned guest conductor Xian Zhang opens the 2019-20 UNCSA Symphony Orchestra season
Acclaimed Maestra Xian Zhang will conduct the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra in a thrilling program featuring Rimsky-Korsakov’s beloved “Scheherazade.”
Other works on the program include Tchaikovsky’s well-known “Marche Slave” (Slavonic March) and Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, featuring student Peter Smith, winner of the 2019 UNCSA Concerto Competition.
Guest conductor Xian Zhang is the first woman to serve as music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. She is also the principal guest conductor of the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales and conductor emeritus of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.
“Xian Zhang is one of the most dynamic conductors working today and we are thrilled that our students have the opportunity to work with and learn from an artist of her caliber,” said Interim Chancellor Brian Cole, who invited Zhang to appear as guest artist when he was dean of the School of Music.
Throughout the course of the 2019-20 season, UNCSA students will perform with four guest conductors. Each offers a different musical interpretation, style and energy allowing students to expand and grow as musicians.
“The diversity of guest conductors adds incredible texture and depth to the training of our student artists and that is the hallmark of the conservatory experience at UNCSA,” said Cole. “The orchestra members will be thrilled to spend a week in the company of an artist and leader such as Xian Zhang, and our audience will be exhilarated by her powerful conducting.”
Future guest conductors are Mark Gibson of the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and visiting faculty at two international conservatories, on Nov. 23; Karin Hendrickson, associate artist at Sage Gateshead and assistant conductor of the Royal Northern Sinfonia, conducting the Nutcracker Orchestra for all of the December performances; and Michael Butterman, who has been music director for three U.S. orchestras and the principal conductor for engagement and community outreach for a fourth, on March 28, 2020.
Smith, who will be featured during the Saint-Saëns concerto, is a fourth-year undergraduate studying with Dmitri Shteinberg. He also attended UNCSA for high school as a student of Eric Larsen. He began his musical career at the age of six, and has earned a variety of distinctions: In addition to the UNCSA concerto competition, he won the Young Artist Piano Competition of the North Carolina Music Teachers National Association Competition, and he was invited to record for the 40th anniversary of radio station WDAV. In July, he advanced to the finals of the Rosen-Schaffel Competition for Young and Emerging Artists held at Appalachian State University. Also over the summer he attended the Bowdoin International Music Festival. He has previously attended the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival and the Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival, along with summer programs at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Oberlin.
About Xian Zhang
Xian Zhang’s contract as music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has been extended until the 2023-24 season, to include the orchestra’s 100th anniversary in 2022. Of her final concerts in 2017-18, conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, NJ.com wrote: “From the opening bars, Zhang imbued the work with majesty, creating the alpine atmospherics that the score calls for. The off-stage horns sounded perfect and the deep pull of Mahler’s music was in full effect. Zhang made the swooping waltzes of the second movement come to life and gave the bluesy, jazzy third movement an elegant light touch. The final movement was big and bold; the horns stood up in the grand finale and made beautiful, clarion sounds. The brass section of the NJSO has never sounded better. The NJPAC audience was on its feet at the end. This is now Zhang’s orchestra – how far can she take it between now and 2024?”
In September 2016, Zhang assumed the position of principal guest conductor of the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, becoming the first female conductor to hold a titled role with a BBC orchestra. Her 2018-19 BBC NOW season included her first international tour with the orchestra to China. The tour, supported by British Council China, forms part of their Inspiring Women In The Arts campaign.
She also holds the post of conductor emeritus of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, following completion of her tenure as music director from 2009–16.