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James Conlon
Shuman Associates INC


Extension solidifies Mr. Conlon’s place among the longest tenured music directors of a major U.S. classical music institution

CINCINNATI – The Board of Trustees of the Cincinnati Musical Festival Association announced today that Maestro James Conlon has renewed his contract as Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival for three more years (through 2016), solidifying his place as the longest tenured music director in the Festival’s 140 year history, having already exceeded the 31-year tenure of the Festival’s founder, Theodore Thomas.

Mr. Conlon has provided the artistic leadership for May Festival for 34 years, and holds a place among the longest-tenured music directors of any major classical music institution in the country: James Levine, Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera (36 years), Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Seiji Ozawa (29 years), and finally Philadelphia Orchestra conductors Leopold Stokowski (28 years) and Eugene Ormandy (at 44 years the longest tenure in American orchestral history).

Mr. Conlon reflected on his tenure with May Festival, “Cincinnati has played a special role in my professional life for what will soon be 35 years. I am deeply proud of my association with the May Festival, May Festival Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. May Festival is a unique institution, and I am inspired by its rich history. It has maintained a tradition and a commitment to choral music and its repertoire which is remarkable in our time.”

In addition to his continuing directorship of May Festival, Mr. Conlon manages several roles as Music Director at LA Opera, as Music Director at Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and as an internationally celebrated guest conductor with prestigious symphony orchestras and opera houses throughout the world.

Throughout Maestro Conlon’s distinguished career he has received many honors including his induction into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2010, and the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest distinction from then President of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac, in 2002. He was also made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters of France in 2004. He was one of the first recipients of the Opera News Award. He has been honored with the Crystal Globe Award from the Anti-Defamation League for his efforts in championing the works of composers silenced by the Third Reich, and the Zemlinsky Prize for his efforts in bringing the composer’s music to international attention.

Cincinnatians are fortunate to have Mr. Conlon, a music director with an esteemed international reputation commit so much of his life to a single institution and May Festival is grateful for this enduring relationship, which has given Cincinnati some of its greatest musical moments. May Festival Board Chair Kelley J. Downing said, “The entire May Festival community joins me in thanking Maestro Conlon for his leadership and musical excellence, extraordinary tenure and personal commitment to the organization. We are proud to be America’s premier choral festival, and a leader and catalyst in the production, presentation and promotion of choral activities in our region and around the globe.”

During Mr. Conlon’s 34 year tenure, May Festival has flourished with performances of musical excellence, and numerous sold out concerts including the 2008 performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and Cincinnati Children’s Choir joining the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Another musical highlight was the October 2001 Carnegie Hall performance of Britten’s War Requiem with the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The performance took place just one month following the World Trade Center attack and the performance in New York was received at first with stunned silence and then with a long, appreciative ovation. A performance of Britten’s War Requiem will be reprised during the 2013 Festival in celebration of the centennial of Britten’s birth and as part of Mr. Conlon’s worldwide three-year homage to the composer. In 2014, Mr. Conlon will return to Carnegie Hall with the May Festival Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Robert Nathaniel Dett’s oratorio, The Ordering of Moses, and John Adams’ Harmonium as part of the Spring for Music Festival.

Mr. Conlon has also programmed inventive and emotionally charged works such as staged versions of Britten’s Noah’s Flood and Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis, which was composed in the Therezin ghetto. Ed Stern, then Producing Artistic Director at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park directed the staging of both works. In 2002, following the racial tension in Cincinnati, Mr. Conlon programmed a concert with a brotherhood theme with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Adolphus Hailstork’s Done Made My Vow, whose text is drawn from the Bible and Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech in an effort to help heal the tension in the city. Central State University Chorus joined the May Festival Chorus on this important concert. Over his tenure Mr. Conlon has forged important relationships with other arts organizations in the region, including three collaborations with the Cincinnati Art Museum providing visual representations of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, and Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ and Roméo & Juliette.

Because of his rich relationships with international guest artists Cincinnatians have been fortunate to hear performances from great singers such as John Aler, Martina Arroyo, Kathleen Battle, Nathan Gunn, Ben Heppner, Marilyn Horne, Cornell MacNeil, James McCracken, James Morris, Jessye Norman, Roberta Peters, Florence Quivar, Sondra Sadvanovsky, Thomas Stewart, Benita Valente, and Deborah Voigt. In addition, Cincinnatians have been priviledged to hear performances from world renowned guest conductors including former May Festival Music Director James Levine and Robert Shaw, Klaus Tennstedt, and Michael Tilson Thomas.
About the May Festival
Established in 1873, the May Festival is directly responsible for the development of Cincinnati’s modern music life. Music Hall, the city’s primary concert venue, was built specifically to house the Festival’s performances. The prestigious roster of Festival Music Directors has included, among others, Theodore Thomas, Max Rudolf, James Levine, and currently, James Conlon. For more information on the 2013 season, visit