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Francesco Lecce-Chong, Music Director and Conductor

Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony's fifth Music Director in 91 years, begins his first full season in October 2019. In addition to the 2019-2020 Classical Series concerts, he will conduct two summer 2019 concerts and a Santa Rosa Symphony Family concert on October 27, 2019.
"I think what I'm most happy with in our programming for next season," Francesco said, "is that with two world premieres of major orchestral works and the presentation of seven different living composers, we've clearly laid down the road map for how to keep our art form alive and relevant. We've done this by programming these less familiar works in ways that connect them with masterworks from the past. It's not about 'something for everyone' or winning an award for adventurous programming; it's that music from all eras communicates with us in important ways. I think these programs will inspire us not only through great music, but also provoke us to think more deeply about the essential nature of art and creativity in our lives. I think they will also remind our audience that "new music" is not a genre – by its very name, we cannot know what it will be and I believe these new works will surprise, delight and inspire in ways more powerful than any music from the past."
Francesco was one of five candidates who auditioned during the 2017-2018 season. The SRS Board of Directors selected him by a unanimous vote in the spring of 2018, after hearing the selection committee's recommendation. He conducted three of the Classical Series programs and one Family Series concert in the 2018-2019 season.
SRS Principal Oboe and Search Committee member Laura Reynolds said, "Francesco is an inspiring presence on the podium, with deep commitment to the craft and a musical sense, or spirit, if you will, that invites players into a collaborative space to create our sound. I very much look forward to working with him!"
In the San Francisco Classical Voice, after Francesco's debut concert as Music Director in October 2018, reviewer Steve Osborn declared, "His crisp and precise beat was easy to follow, and his technique was exemplary. He highlighted stark contrasts between the legato and staccato passages, he let the syncopations ring out, and his dynamics were clearly evident. Moreover, he achieved all of this with minimal movement. He leaned forward and crouched down as necessary, but he was never showy. In the third and fourth movements, he was electric." 
After his third concert weekend as Music Director in January 2019, Diane Peterson of The Press Democrat stated, "Lecce-Chong left no doubt that the magic of his debut was no fluke.  . . . he proved his mettle by pouring new life into Mozart’s tragic Symphony No. 40 and artfully molding the pacing and phrasing of Mahler’s idyllic Symphony No. 4."


American conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong has garnered acclaim for his dynamic performances, commitment to innovative programming and profound engagement in community outreach. In the 2017-2018 season, Lecce-Chong was appointed Music Director & Conductor of the Eugene Symphony, following in the paths of renowned predecessors including Marin Alsop and Giancarlo Guerrero. In the same season, he became the winning Music Director candidate of the Santa Rosa Symphony, a post he assumed in the 2018-2019 season.
In summer 2018, he concluded his tenure as Associate Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with an all-Brahms program. His previous posts include Principal Conductor of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra and Associate Conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony under Edo de Waart.
Active as a guest conductor, he has appeared with orchestras around the world including the National Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, St. Louis Symphony and Hong Kong Philharmonic and collaborated with renowned soloists such as Renée Fleming and Itzhak Perlman. Lecce-Chong recently made his subscription debuts with the Louisville Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and Xi’An Symphony Orchestra, as well as returns to the Civic Orchestra in Chicago and Milwaukee Symphony.
Lecce-Chong is equally at home with opera repertoire, having built his opera credentials as staff conductor with Santa Fe Opera and conducted Madama Butterfly with the Milwaukee Symphony at the Florentine Opera. In Europe, he took part in masterclasses at the Lucerne Festival under Bernard Haitink as well as with the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich. He has worked closely with a number of internationally celebrated conductors including David Zinman, Edo de Waart, and Manfred Honeck.
Also trained as a pianist and composer, Lecce-Chong champions the work of new composers and the need for arts education. As Associate Conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO), he curated and presented the works of both active and lesser-known composers, including two works commissioned by the orchestra, as well as two U.S. premieres. He also helped create the first MSO Composer Institute, providing performance opportunities for young American composers. Lecce-Chong has complemented his programming with a strong commitment to arts education for all ages. In Milwaukee, he provided artistic leadership for the MSO’s nationally lauded Arts in Community Education program–one of the largest arts integration programs in the country. His dedication to connecting orchestras and communities continues in Pittsburgh where he gives preconcert talks, conducts concerts for school audiences, and leads specially designed sensory-friendly performances.
Lecce-Chong is a native of Boulder, Colorado, where he began conducting at the age of sixteen. He is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music and Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Otto-Werner Mueller.

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