Music Director Finalists 2019-2020



Since the Spring of 2018, the Reno Chamber Orchestra has been engaged in a search process to find a new music director/conductor, only the third in its 45-year history. Out of over 150 applicants from around the globe, six finalists were chosen. Each finalist will conduct one concert beginning this month with Maestro Franz, and continuing into the 2019-2020 season. Audience members and musicians of the orchestra will be given a survey after each performance to share their feedback on the featured conductor. Who will lead the Orchestra for the 2020 season and beyond? The orchestra plans to make its decision and public announcement in the Spring of 2020.

Learn about our music director finalists for the 2019-2020 season…

Robert Franz — March 30-31, 2019

Donato Cabrera — Oct. 19-20, 2019

Martin Majkut — Nov. 23-24, 2019

Nicholas Carthy — Jan. 25-26, 2020

Kelly Kuo — March 14-15, 2020

Conner Gray Covington — April 4-5, 2020


Robert Franz (March 30-31, 2019)

Robert Franz, a first-rate conductor and enthusiastic award-winning educator, is acclaimed by critics and composers alike. Current posts include Music Director of the Windsor Symphony and Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Orchestra, Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony, and Artistic Advisor of the Boise Baroque Orchestra. In increasing demand as a guest conductor, Franz’s recent appearances include the Cleveland Orchestra, the Baltimore, St. Louis, Winston-Salem and Victoria Symphonies, and Italy’s Orchestra da Camera Fiorentina. Recognized for his expertise on music’s impact, this season Franz gave a TedX Talk titled Active Listening and Our Perception of Time.

As Windsor Symphony’s Music Director, Franz was recently presented by The Windsor Endowment for the Arts with its Arts Leadership Award. The WSO celebrated its 70th season last year and enjoyed its best year which included a record seven sold-out performances. Recent collaborations include the Windsor International Film Festival, the Art Gallery of Windsor, and the Canadian Historical Aviation Association. This season showcases Franz’sprogramming versatility with concerts that include the Canadian premiere of Heather Schmidt’s Lunar Reflections, collaboration with the Toronto based, Kamancello, an ensemble dedicated to building bridges between western classical music and middle eastern music, along with the world premiere of Jordan Pal’s Scylla, Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra.

Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony, Franz was honored with the Raphael Fliegel Award for Visionary Leadership. It was presented in recognition of his immense success in advancing the organization’s educational and community engagement activities. Franz is also Founder and Music Director of the Idaho Orchestra Institute, an intensive experience designed for college and advanced high school musicians.

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Donato Cabrera (Oct. 19-20, 2019)

Donato Cabrera is the Music Director of the California Symphony and the Las Vegas Philharmonic, and served as the Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and the Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2009-2016. 

Since Cabrera’s appointment as Music Director of the California Symphony in 2013, the organization has reached new artistic heights by implementing innovative programming that emphasizes welcoming newcomers and loyalists alike, building on its reputation for championing music by living composers, and committing to programming music by women and people of color. With a recently extended contract through the 2022-23 season, Cabrera continues to advise and oversee the Symphony’s music education programs and community engagement activities. Cabrera has also greatly changed the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s concert experience by expanding the scope and breadth of its orchestral concerts. Cabrera has also reenergized the Youth Concert Series by creating an engaging and interactive curriculum-based concert experience. 

In recent seasons, Cabrera has made impressive debuts with the National Symphony’s KC Jukebox at the Kennedy Center, Louisville Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco, New West Symphony, Kalamazoo Symphony, and the Reno Philharmonic. In 2016, he led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in performances with Grammy Award-winning singer Lila Downs. Cabrera made his Carnegie Hall debut leading the world premiere of Mark Grey’s Ătash Sorushan with soprano, Jessica Rivera. 

Awards and fellowships include a Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship at the Salzburg Festival and conducting the Nashville Symphony in the League of American Orchestra’s prestigious Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview. Donato Cabrera was recognized by the Consulate-General of Mexico in San Francisco as a Luminary of the Friends of Mexico Honorary Committee, for his contributions to promoting and developing the presence of the Mexican community in the Bay Area. 

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Martin Majkut (Nov. 23-24, 2019)

Born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), Majkut graduated from the State Conservatory and served as Assistant Conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic while earning his Ph.D. in conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts. While studying, he worked with the Slovak Philharmonic, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Slovak State Philharmonic and Slovak Sinfonietta.

Majkut came to the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar in 2003 and earned a D.M.A., his second doctorate, in 2008, at the University of Arizona. He also studied with Gianluigi Gelmetti at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy and Salvador Mas Conde at the Wiener Meisterkurse in Vienna, Austria.

Majkut has been serving as Music Director of the Rogue Valley Symphony (RVS) in Ashland, Oregon since 2010. The RVS has experienced a remarkable growth under his leadership and is enjoying an unprecedented level of support and enthusiasm in the community. The 50th season of the orchestra, with five world premieres and a star-studded line-up of soloists, earned him an invitation to the June 2018 League of American Orchestras conference as a featured presenter in the Frontiers: Risk + Rewardsession.

Maestro Majkut’s ability to inspire the orchestra and deliver exciting, polished and powerful performances results in enthused audiences and many sold out concerts. He has been called “amazing, supremely gifted”and “an incomparable, unique and perhaps irreplaceable asset”by the press in Oregon.

Starting with the 2017/18 season, Maestro Majkut assumed the music directorship of the Queens Symphony Orchestra in New York. Performing in a variety of ethnically diverse communities, the orchestra is quickly gaining popularity in the dynamic borough of 2.35 million people.

Majkut is looking forward to his return to the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, Slovakia in spring of 2019. He was invited to conduct a program celebrating the 70thanniversary of his alma mater.

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Nicholas Carthy (Jan. 25-26, 2020)

Nicholas Carthy, Opera Music Director, studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London with Mary Peppin and John York, and in 1981 won an Austrian government scholarship to study at the Mozarteum Salzburg with Hans Leygraf. After completing his studies he was offered a post as Kapellmeister at the Landestheater in Salzburg where he made his operatic debut conducting Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. During this time he was also an assistant at the Salzburg Festival, working closely with both Bernard Haitink and Sir Georg Solti.

From 1990 until 1993 Carthy was assistant to Daniel Barenboim, working on the Erato recording of Don Giovanni in Berlin, at the Chicago Symphony for the Mozart/DaPonte series, in Le Châtelet in Paris (Wozzeck), and in Bayreuth.

In June 1992, Nicholas Carthy was appointed Musical Director of the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana. Under his stewardship the orchestra received invitations to perform at the Lucerne Festival, the Concertgebouw and the Goldener Musikvereinssaal in Vienna. Carthy has conducted opera productions in Vienna, Salzburg, Oslo, Stockholm, Winterthur, Milan, Rome, Naples, Eugene and Tel Aviv. His repertoire ranges from Mozart to the contemporary. He conducted the first performances of Thomas Adès Powder Her Face in Sweden, Israel, Switzerland and Italy. A critical review in Opera magazine described the first performance in Italy as being “conducted with brilliant musicality.”

As a guest conductor Nicholas Carthy has worked with orchestras such as Camerata Academica Salzburg, Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Stockholm, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra RAI di Torino, Orchestra San Carlo di Napoli, Accademia Filarmonica Roma, Orchestra Teatro Reggio Torino, Orchestra Sinfonica del Piemonte, L’Orchestra Filarmonica di Torino, Orchestra di Padua e del Veneto, Pomeriggi Musicale di Milano, Wiener Volksopernorchester, Israel Contemporary Players, Stadtorchester Winterthur, RSO Prague, Slovak Philharmonic, Slovenian Philharmonic, Orquesta de San Sebastian and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia di Roma, where he collaborated closely with Luciano Berio on several projects. He has worked with distinguished soloists including Radu Lupu, Alicia de Larrocha, Natalia Gutman, Viktoria Mullova, Waltraud Meier, Daniela Barcellona, Robert Dean Smith and Wolfgang Holzmair.

Beside his activities as a conductor, Nicholas Carthy is a much sought-after accompanist. He has performed in many of the great halls of the world such as Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall, Wigmore Hall, Bolshoi Theatre, Kölner Philharmonie, Wiener Konzerthaus, La Scala, La Fenice, Santa Cecilia, Gewandhaus Leipzig, and the Berlin State Opera, He has also performed at festivals including Salzburg, Bad Kissingen, München, Schleswig-Holstein and the Schubertiade in Hohenems.

His work as a musical educator has taken him all over the world. From 1996 to 2002 he was a guest professor at the opera school in Stockholm and is Musical Director of the Portland State University Summer Programme. He is Professor of Music and Opera Music Director at the University of Colorado, and visiting tutor at the Royal Northern College of Music. Carthy gives master classes in opera schools and conservatories throughout Europe and the U.S.A, as well as conducting youth orchestra seminars in Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and Norway. He also sits on the jury of several international piano and singing competitions. Nicholas Carthy broadcasts regularly as conductor and pianist.

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Kelly Kuo (March 14-15, 2020)

Praised by the Cincinnati Enquirer as “a leader of exceptional musical gifts, who has a clear technique on the podium and an impressive rapport with audiences,” Maestro Kelly Kuo brings a dynamic versatility and nuance to a diverse repertoire, which includes over 80 operas and an expansive symphonic repertoire as well. Recent operatic engagements have included productions with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, Kentucky Opera, Madison Opera, Tulsa Opera, Anchorage Opera, Opera Pacific, and Lyric Opera San Diego. Maestro Kuo also led performances of Porgy and Bess on New York Harlem Production’s tour in Hamburg, Munich, and Las Palmas.

In 2017, Maestro Kuo was honored to conduct Charlie Parker’s Yardbird for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The Chicago Sun Times stated “Conductor Kelly Kuo and his small but superb orchestra are a seamless match for the singers,” and the Chicago Classical Review stated “Conductor Kelly Kuo led the ensemble in a vital performance.” Of his production of Macbeth at Anchorage Opera, the Anchorage Daily news noted “Top honors should probably go to conductor Kelly Kuo. The sound… was full and taut as Kuo brought out the drama and lyricism. The orchestra played with robust enthusiasm and accuracy.” And of his La traviata for Kentucky Opera, critics stated “Conductor Kelly Kuo led the Louisville Orchestra Friday with considerable verve, and no shortage of idiomatic delicacy…the sound was balanced and quite full.” Maestro Kuo also led critically praised new productions of Philip Glass’ Galileo Galilei for both Madison Opera and Cincinnati Opera and has served as Music Director and Conductor of the Butler Opera Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

As Artistic Director of Oregon Mozart Players, Maestro Kuo recently extended his contract through 2021, having “transformed this chamber group into…a band of professional, enthusiastic and superior musicians, playing confidently as one unit” (The Register Guard). Recent symphonic engagements have included concerts with Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Lexington Philharmonic, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, and Ballet Fantastique. Maestro Kuo also curated and conducted the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s inaugural Summermusik festival as Interim Music Director. Maestro Kuo has collaborated with such soloists as Cho-Liang Lin, Mark Kosower, DaXun Zhang, David Shifrin, Mary Dunleavy, Bion Tsang, Anton Nel, Bella Hristova, Inbal Segev, Elizabeth Rowe, and Stephen Beus. Kuo has also conducted the world premieres of chamber orchestrations for Jake Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus, Daniel Catán’s La hija de Rappaccini, as well as the premiere of Daron Hagen’s A Woman in Morocco.

An Oregon native and recipient of a Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistant Award for young conductors, Kuo continues to concertize as a keyboardist as the only living pianist to have studied with two pupils of the Russian virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz. Upcoming keyboard performances include the Zenith Chamber Music Festival and recitals with mezzo-soprano Adriana Zabala and baritone Andrew Garland. Maestro Kuo has served on the conducting staff of Los Angeles Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and Opera Pacific. He holds a master’s degree in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music and is an alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio.

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Conner Gray Covington (April 4-5, 2020)

This Fall, Conner Gray Covington begins his second season with the Utah Symphony as Associate Conductor. In his first season as Assistant Conductor, Covington conducted over 80 performances of classical, education, film, pops, and family concerts as well as tours throughout the state. Prior to his tenure in Utah, he was the Rita E. Hauser Conducting Fellow at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he worked closely with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra and the Curtis Opera Theater while also being mentored by Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra sharing the podium with Ludovic Morlot. Covington began his career as Assistant Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Memphis Youth Symphony Program. A two-time recipient (2017 and 2014) of a Career Assistance Award from the Solti Foundation U.S., he worked with the Nashville Symphony as a featured conductor in the 2016 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview presented by the League of American Orchestras.

Covington has also worked with the symphonies of St. Louis, Utah, Virginia, and Monterey (CA) as a guest conductor, and in the 2018-2019 season he will make debuts with the Kansas City Symphony, the Portland (Maine) Symphony, and the Oregon Mozart Players in addition to two appearances with the NOVA Chamber Music Series. He has served as a cover conductor for the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, The Florentine Opera Company (Milwaukee, WI), and the Britt Festival Orchestra (Jacksonville, OR). He has also worked with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich as part of the 6th International David Zinman Conducting Masterclass. In 2014, Covington was selected by members of the Vienna Philharmonic to attend the Salzburg Festival as a recipient of the Ansbacher Fellowship for Young Conductors. In 2012, Covington competed in the prestigious Malko Conducting Competition in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he conducted the Danish National Symphony for a jury headed by Lorin Maazel and was the youngest participant to advance to the third round. He also worked with the New Japan Philharmonic in the 2012 Tokyo International Conducting Competition and advanced to the semi-final round.

In the summers of 2011 and 2012, Covington attended the Aspen Music Festival as a fellowship student in the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen. There he worked closely with Robert Spano, Larry Rachleff, and Hugh Wolff as well as other guest conductors throughout the summer. Covington has also conducted the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in a masterclass with Miguel Harth-Bedoya and for two summers studied at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors.

Born in Louisiana, Covington grew up in East Tennessee and began playing the violin at age 11. He completed high school at the renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. He then went on to study violin with Dr. Martha Walvoord and conducting with Dr. Clifton Evans at the University of Texas at Arlington where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in violin performance. He continued his studies with Neil Varon at the Eastman School of Music where earned a MM in orchestral conducting and was awarded the Walter Hagen Conducting Prize.

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