Acclaimed conductor, Robert Franz, recognized as “an outstanding musician with profound intelligence,” has held to three principles throughout his career: a commitment to the highest artistic standards, to creating alliances and building bridges in each community he serves, and a dedication to being a strong force in music education. As Music Director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Orchestra, Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony, and newly appointed Artistic Advisor of the Boise Baroque Orchestra, he has achieved success through his focus on each of these principles.
His 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.” Franz is in increasing demand as a guest conductor, whose upcoming and recent engagements include appearances with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, Winston-Salem Symphony, Reno Chamber Orchestra and Opera Idaho. Additional recent guest conducting appearances include the Cleveland Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, North Carolina Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, and Italy’s Orchestra da Camera Fiorentinas. Franz is equally comfortable and effective coaching more than 50 student orchestras each season. His versatility has led to collaborations with a wide array of artists, including James Galway, Joshua Bell, Rachel Barton Pine, Chris Botti, Idina Menzel and Judy Collins. An eloquent speaker, Franz recently presented a TEDx Talk entitled Active Listening and Our Perception of Time.
In his seventh season as Music Director with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, Franz was recognized by The Windsor Endowment for the Arts with its Arts Leadership Award. Highlights of the 2019/2020 season include a presentation of Madama Butterfly in concert, the 2018 Honen’s Laureate winner pianist Nicolas Namoradze, and Canadian composer Tobin Stokes’ Symphony No. 3 ‘The Piper.’ Recent collaborations include the Windsor International Film Festival, Art Gallery of Windsor, Canadian Historical Aviation Association, and the University of Windsor.
Franz’ inaugural season as Artistic Advisor of the Boise Baroque Orchestra will include collaborations with Opera Idaho in a semi-staged performance of Handel’s Acis and Galatea featuring Grammy Award winning tenor, Karim Sulayman, the Boise High School Chamber Orchestra and the Boise Philharmonic Master Chorale in a program of music by Haydn and Bach. This spring will also see the Orchestra’s first ever commercial recording project of Classical Oboe Concerti for Centaur Records featuring rising star oboist Bhavani Kotha. This season Franz celebrates his 12th year as Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony where he was recently honored as the first member of the orchestra conducting staff with the Raphael Fliegel Award for Visionary Leadership. It was presented to him in recognition of his immense success in advancing the organization’s education and community engagement activities. Franz’ annual Art of Conducting workshop at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival has resulted in numerous practicing conductors from across North America deepen their awareness of their craft. As Founder and Music Director of the Idaho Orchestra Institute, now in its third year, Franz takes young musicians on an exploration of major orchestral repertoire in a program that explores the complete musician.
In addition to his current posts, Franz served as Music Director of the Boise Philharmonic from 2008-2016, and the Mansfield Symphony (OH) from 2003-2010. When not on the podium he can be found on the slopes, skiing slowly and carefully, stretching in a yoga class, and non-competitively trying his hardest to win at a game of cards with his family.
John Morris Russell
John Morris Russell is the Conductor of the Cincinnati Pops; he is also Music Director of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, in South Carolina, where he leads the classical subscription series as well as the prestigious Hilton Head International Piano Competition. Mr. Russell also serves as Principal Pops Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, in New York, following in the footsteps of Marvin Hamlisch and Doc Severinsen. Maestro Russell completed his eleven-year tenure as Music Director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in 2012, whereupon he was named the Orchestra’s first Conductor Laureate.
While Music Director of the Windsor Symphony Maestro Russell fostered unprecedented artistic growth and invigorated the musical life of the Windsor-Essex region. Notable were national broadcasts on CBC Radio 2 and the Orchestra’s first nationally televised production for the CBC series Opening Night, which later received a Gemini Award Nomination. His 2006 recording of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf with the WSO won Mr. Russell and the orchestra its first JUNO nomination for Best Children’s Album in 2008.
He also spearheaded the creation of the Windsor-Essex Youth Choir and the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra. Under Russell’s leadership, the WSO was awarded the Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Arts, as well as the Ontario Arts Council’s Vida Peene Award for Artistic Excellence, Mr. Russell received the prestigious Herb Gray Harmony Award from the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County, in recognition of the WSO’s programming and outreach activities in 2010. Later that year, he became the first recipient of the Arts Leadership Award of the Windsor Endowment for the Arts, and in the spring of 2011, in recognition of the enormous contribution he made to the region’s cultural life, the University of Windsor awarded John Morris Russell an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Bruce J.G. Kotowich
Bruce J. G. Kotowich is an Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choirs at the University of Windsor where he directs the University of Windsor Chamber Choir and University Singers. In addition to directing these choral ensembles, he teaches conducting. Dr. Kotowich is also the Chorus Master for the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of the Windsor Classic Chorale.
He has conducted the Manitoba Provincial Senior High Honour Choir, Manitoba Provincial Jazz Choir, the South Dakota North Region All-State Choir, and the Illinois Music Educators Association District 8 Honor Choir. He has conducted and judged numerous other festival and conference choirs and has toured throughout North America, Europe and China with his choirs
Dr. Kotowich has presented at the Iowa Choral Directors Association Summer Conference, the National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association, North Central ACDA Regional Conferences, and the NDSU Symposium: Music of the Americas. Dr. Kotowich has published in the Choral Research Memorandum Series through Chorus America, is the editor of a choral music series for Alliance Publishing, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of Anacrusis, Canada’s Choral Journal.