Eleven Conductors Awarded the 2016 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award


The Solti Foundation U.S. today announced the largest number of recipients to receive a Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award by the organization in one year, surpassing last year’s nine awards and bringing the number of such grants given by the Foundation in its twelve year history to 46. This year’s recipients hold positions throughout the United States with orchestra and opera posts in Arizona, California, DC, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Philadelphia, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

In making the announcement, Penny Van Horn, Solti Foundation U.S. Board Chair, congratulated the 2016 recipients: Christopher Allen, John L. Magro Resident Conductor, Cincinnati Opera, and Associate Conductor, Los Angeles Opera; Gene Chang, Assistant Conductor, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Music Director, Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra; Ankush Kumar Bahl, Assistant Conductor, National Symphony Orchestra (four year tenure just completed); Joshua Gersen, Assistant Conductor, New York Philharmonic, and Music Director, New York Youth Symphony; Daniel Black, Assistant Conductor, and Rae and Ed Schollmaier Foundation Chair, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, and Music Director of the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra; Keitaro Harada, Associate Conductor, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Associate Conductor, Arizona Opera, and Associate Conductor, Richmond (VA) Symphony Orchestra; Yaniv Dinur, Assistant Conductor, The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; Stefano Sarzani, Assistant Conductor, Des Moines Metro Opera; Stilian Kirov, Music Director, Symphony in C (Philadelphia, PA), and Music Director, Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra; Michelle Merrill, Assistant Conductor and Phillip and Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; and Sameer Patel, Assistant Conductor, The San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

She noted that there were several previous awardees amongst the recipients, stating, “The mission of the Solti Foundation U.S. is to identify, support and promote emerging young American conductors as they launch their classical careers. The Foundation is always interested in the long term development of our awardees. We nurture relationships with all our recipients, tracking their progress and offering support when it is merited. We also provide continuing support not only in the form of grants but in valuable access to mentors, door opening introductions and opera residencies.”

About The 2016 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award Recipients

Christopher Allen

ChristopherAllenThe John L. Magro Resident Conductor for Cincinnati Opera and Associate Conductor of Los Angeles Opera, Christopher Allen’s conducting career was launched when he received the Bruno Walter Conducting Award and Memorial Career Grant. 2015 – 2016 season highlights include his UK debut conducting The Barber of Seville at the English National Opera and at Lyric Opera of Kansas City in a production of L’elisir d’amore directed by James Robinson. As Resident Conductor of Cincinnati Opera, Mr. Allen will return for productions in the 2016 and 2017 summers, as well as conduct Opera in the Park, the annual free concert in Washington Park that opens the Opera’s summer season. Mr. Allen makes his Washington National Opera debut conducting The Daughter of the Regiment in fall 2016. Conducting credits include Cincinnati Opera, LA Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Santa Barbara, Montana’s Intermountain Opera, and Korea’s Daegu Opera House. Since 2011, Christopher Allen has maintained a close relationship with the Atlanta Symphony, working with Music Director Robert Spano and Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles. He served on the music staff of Cincinnati Opera as Assistant Conductor, prior to receiving his current post. Recently, Allen was nominated as a finalist for 2015 International Opera awards in London in the “Newcomer” category.

Gene Chang

GeneChangNamed Assistant Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati May Festival commencing at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, Gene Chang’s season highlights include his engagement with the Cincinnati Symphony, as part of which he will also lead the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra programs, as well as performances with the Pittsburgh Symphony and the UC Berkeley Opera. He was recently invited to participate in public masterclasses with Myung-Whun Chung and the Seoul Philharmonic, and has been engaged to guest conduct concerts during the 2016-17 season. He has also been engaged as a cover conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Mr. Chang was named one of only four finalists in the Second International Chicago Symphony Orchestra Sir Georg Solti Conducting Apprenticeship in 2013. In 2012, he was named the Conducting Fellow for the Atlantic Music Festival. Mr. Chang previously served as Assistant Conductor for the Juilliard Opera Company and for the Juilliard Dance department. Among his honors and awards are a Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship, a Hertz Fellowship, and the Eisner Prize for Creative Achievement in the Arts.

Ankush Kumar Bahl

AnkushBahlHaving just completed a four-year tenure as Assistant Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. (under Christoph Eschenbach), Ankush Kumar Bahl has recently made appearances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Orchestre National de France, the National Opera Orchestre de Nancy, the Copenhagen Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Indianapolis Symphony, among others in the U.S. and Europe. This season, Bahl will expand his international presence with debuts in Canada, Mexico and South America. This summer, he appears once again with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony and makes his debut with an all-Mendelssohn program at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York. Bahl is the proud recipient of 2011, 2013 and 2015 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awards, as well as a 2009 Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Scholarship (Leipzig). He was discovered in 2009 by former New York Philharmonic Music Director, Kurt Masur, and soon after was hired as an assistant conductor to Masur at the Orchestre National de France, the Royal Concertgebouw, and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He also has been a conducting fellow at the Aspen Music Festival.

Joshua Gersen

JoshuaGersenCurrently Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic, as well as the Music Director of the New York Youth Symphony, Joshua Gersen was previously the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Conducting Fellow of the New World Symphony, where he served as the Assistant Conductor to the symphony’s Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas. He made his conducting debut with the San Francisco Symphony in the fall of 2013 and has been invited back numerous times, including this past January where he led a program in the brand new SoundBox Theater and even filled in for Michael Tilson Thomas on part of a subscription series. Gersen has conducted the Indianapolis Symphony, Alabama Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, and members of the Pittsburgh Symphony. He served as Principal Conductor of the Ojai Music Festival for the 2013 season, and as Assistant Conductor of the Aspen Music Festival for the 2012 summer season under Robert Spano. He is a recipient of a 2015 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award, the winner of Aspen Music Festival’s 2011 Aspen Conducting Prize, and the 2010 Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize.

Daniel Black

DanielBlackAssistant Conductor, and Rae and Ed Schollmaier Foundation Chair of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, and Director of Instrumental Music at the Wildwood Arts and Music Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas Orchestra, Daniel Black will guest conduct the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra as a finalist candidate for Music Director in 2016-17. With the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, he will lead the Midwest premiere and first professional recording of John Harmon’s epic new symphony, Crazy Horse. He will also make his summer debut on the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Concerts in the Garden series. Prior guest-conducting engagements have included the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Alabama All-State Festival Orchestra, the Rockford Symphony, Champaign-Urbana Symphony, South Shore Opera Company, St. Petersburg Symphony “Classica” and the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra. Previous posts include serving as Assistant Conductor of the Spoleto Festival USA and the Peninsula Music Festival, as Conductor-in-Residence of Chicago’s International Beethoven Festival and as Music Director of the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra. A finalist and diploma winner of the International Prokofiev Composition Contest in April 2008, Mr. Black is also a recipient of a 2015 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award.

Keitaro Harada

KeitaroHaradaCurrently in his first season as Associate Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra, Keitaro Harada is also Associate Conductor of the Arizona Opera, and Associate Conductor of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra (Virginia). Upcoming guest engagements include the 2016 Pacific Music Festival by invitation of Valery Gergiev, his conducting debut with Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in the fall, and leading the world premiere performances of Riders of the Purple Sage for Arizona Opera in 2017. Mr. Harada also makes his conducting debut with Boise Philharmonic, West Virginia Symphony and South Bend Symphony Orchestra. Recent appearances include debuts with the New Japan Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and performances with Arizona Opera, the Tucson, Phoenix, Virginia, and Sierra Vista symphonies, and Orquesta Filarmónica de Sonora. In 2013, Harada was selected by the League of American Orchestras for the Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview. In 2012, he was a semi-finalist at the 9th Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors in Poland. In 2011, Harada was one of ten semi-finalists invited by Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony to participate in the First Chicago Symphony Orchestra Solti International Conducting Competition. Early in his career, he served as Music Director of the Phoenix Youth Symphony. Mr. Harada is also a recipient of a 2015 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award.

Yaniv Dinur

YanivDinurRecently appointed Assistant Conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Yaniv Dinur has performed with orchestras in Israel, Europe, The United States, Canada and Mexico. Dinur started his conducting career performing with the Israel Camerata at the age of 19, making him the youngest conductor ever to conduct an orchestra in Israel. Since then, he also conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, New World Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Tallahassee Symphony, Orchestra Giovanile Italiana, Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese, Pomeriggi Musicali in Milan, Solisti di Perugia, Torino Philharmonic, Portugal Symphony Orchestra, Sofia Festival Orchestra, State Orchestra of St. Petersburg, Orquesta Filarmónica de la UNAM in Mexico, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. Mr. Dinur has worked closely with such world-class musicians as Lorin Maazel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Pinchas Zukerman, and Kurt Masur, and is a winner of numerous conducting awards, among them 2nd Prize at the 2009 Mata International Conducting Competition in Mexico, and the Yuri Ahronovitch 1st Prize in the 2005 Aviv Conducting Competitions in Israel. He was chosen by the League of American Orchestras to be a featured conductor in the 2011 Bruno Walter Conducting Preview.

Stefano Sarzani

StefanoSarzaniAppointed Associate Conductor of the Des Moines Metro Opera for summer 2016 and also connected with L’Opéra National de Lorraine (Nancy), Stefano Sarzani is cultivating an international career on the orchestral and operatic stages. His collaborations with orchestras and opera houses include the Boise Philharmonic Orchestra, National Repertory Orchestra (Colorado), Orchestra Sinfonica di Sanremo, Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana, Atlanta Opera, and Sarasota Opera. A recent finalist for the New World Symphony’s 2015-16 conducting fellowship, he has received recognition in the competition arena as well, earning 2nd prize in The American Prize 2012;” and by such competitions as the 1st Memphis Symphony Orchestra International Conducting Competition and Spoleto’s L. Capuana International Conducting Competition.

Stilian Kirov

StilianKirovRecently appointed Music Director of California’s Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra and of New Jersey’s Symphony in C, Stilian Kirov has also served as Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony, the Memphis Symphony, and as Music Director of the Memphis Youth Symphony Program, as well as cover conductor for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and assistant conductor to Bernard Haitink with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Recent and upcoming guest conducting engagements include performances with the symphonies of West Virginia, Kalamazoo, South Bend, Tucson, and the National Repertory Orchestra (Breckenridge), in the U.S., as well as Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet. International appearances include the Victoria Symphony (British Columbia), Orchestre Colonne (Paris), Thüringen Philharmonic Orchestra (Germany), Leopolis Chamber Orchestra (Ukraine), Orchestra of Colors (Athens), Sofia Festival Orchestra, State Hermitage Orchestra (St. Petersburg), the Zagreb Philharmonic (Croatia), and the Musical Olympus International Festival in St. Petersburg, among others. A prize winner at Denmark’s 2015 Malko Competition, and a 2013 Tanglewood Conducting Fellow, his numerous awards include an Emmy for the Memphis Symphony’s Soundtrack Project, the Orchestra Preference Award and Third Prize at the 2010 Mitropoulos Conducting Competition, France’s 2010 ADAMI Conducting Prize and Chautaqua Music Festival’s 2010 David Effron Conducting Fellowship.

Michelle Merill

MichelleMerillCurrently in her second season as Assistant Conductor, and Phillip and Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador, of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), Michelle Merrill was recently named as one of Hour Detroit Magazine’s 3 Cultural Organization Leaders to Watch, and made her classical subscription debut with the DSO in April 2016. Recent and upcoming engagements include the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Symphoria (Syracuse), Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, Boise Philarmonic, Orlando Philharmonic, New Music Detroit, and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic (where she formerly served as Assistant Conductor) and the St. Augustine Music Festival. In March of 2014, Ms. Merrill stepped in on short notice with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra for their performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, which was then named to the Dallas Morning News’ Top Ten Classical Performances of 2014. In 2013, she was awarded the prestigious Ansbacher Conducting Fellowship by members of the Vienna Philharmonic and the American Austrian Foundation. A strong advocate of new music, Ms. Merrill recently collaborated with composer Gabriela Lena Frank and soprano Jessica Rivera on Frank’s work La Centinela y la Paloma (The Keeper and the Dove), as a part of numerous community programs related to the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Sameer Patel

SameerPatelCurrently in his first season as Assistant Conductor of the San Diego Symphony, Sameer Patel previously spent three seasons as Associate Conductor of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. Recent and upcoming engagements include appearances with the symphony orchestras of Toronto, Detroit, Knoxville, Phoenix, Toledo, Alabama, Reading, Muncie and Jacksonville, the Fresno Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Sinfonietta. Additionally, Mr. Patel has worked with the Tonhalle-Orchestra Zürich, Orquestra Sinfónica Simón Bolívar of Venezuela, Lucerne Festival Strings, Orchestra da Camera di Trento, the Ensemble Zandonai, the Festival Orchestra of Sofia at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, the Oslo Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Northern College of Music Orchestra at the Stresa Festival. He has also conducted at the David Oistrakh Festival and the Leigo Music Days Festival in Estonia in appearances with the Estonian National Youth Symphony and the St. Petersburg Festival Orchestra. Among his honors are participating in the League of American Orchestras’ 2013 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview, being named a 2011 Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Scholar, an honor given to him by former New York Philharmonic Music Director Kurt Masur. He has also held conducting fellowships with the Boston Philharmonic and the Chicago Sinfonietta.

* * *

Artistic and Awards Committee Chair Elizabeth Buccheri said “We on the Solti Foundation U.S. Board of Directors are pleased to provide funding to a larger number of worthy applicants. We will look forward to following them as they go forward in very exciting ways.”

Earlier this spring, the Foundation announced its 2016 The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award to Karina Canellakis, and will announce its 2016-17 opera residencies in the near future.

About The Solti Foundation U.S.

Now in its twelfth year of assisting outstanding young U.S. conductors to further develop their talent and careers, The Solti Foundation U.S. is the foremost organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to helping young conductors.

Established in 2000 to honor the memory of Sir Georg Solti by lending significant support to career-ready young American musicians, in 2004, the Foundation concentrated the focus of its award program to exclusively assist talented young American conductors early in their professional careers (its original mission was of a more general arts nature).

The Foundation endeavors to seek out those musicians who have chosen to follow a path similar to that followed by Sir Georg himself. In keeping with the spirit of Sir Georg’s active approach to his career, young conductors must apply to be considered for the awards.

While dedicated to identifying and assisting young conductors early on, the Foundation is also concerned with the long-term development of its award recipients, continuing to offer support and maintaining a constant interest in their growth and achievements.

The Foundation currently awards the following grants annually:

The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award

Among the largest grants currently given to American conductors in the formative years of their careers, the prestigious $25,000 grant is given annually to a single promising American conductor 38 years of age or younger. The Award, also known as The Solti Fellow, includes door-opening introductions, ongoing professional mentoring, and introductions to two of Chicago’s most prestigious performing organizations: Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Recipients include Karina Canellakis, Vladimir Kulenovic, Cristian Macelaru, James Feddeck, Case Scaglione, Eric Nielsen, and Anthony Barrese.

The Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award

The amount of the Career Assistance Awards varies.

Opera Residency Program

Introduced in the 2014-15 season, the program places former award recipients with a distinguished opera house for one-on-one mentoring and coaching of an opera during the company’s professional season. Conductors cannot apply, but are instead selected by the Artistic and Awards Committee.

The Foundation is currently the only American Foundation to grant these kinds of awards each year to young American conductors. Citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are career-ready artists in the field of conducting are eligible to apply.

Applicants for all Solti Foundation U.S. awards must be able to demonstrate that he/she is developing a career as a symphonic/operatic conductor. All applications from The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award are considered for a Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award. Applications are reviewed by an awards committee comprised of a panel of professionals with broad musical and conducting experience. The Foundation reserves the right to withhold a grant in any given year if the Awards Committee does not find suitable applicants in one or more of the various award categories.