Michelle Di Russo, Kyle Dickson, Ben Manis (photos courtesy of CAG)
With seven decades of history helping to launch the careers of more than 500 young artists with comprehensive management support, New York performances, concert bookings and professional career development and coaching, Concert Artists Guild (CAG) is thrilled to announce its newest initiative: the creation of a new Conductors Program, marking the first time the organization has added a new category to its roster. In line with CAG’s mission, the program will provide selected conductors with international management representation in collaboration with the UK’s Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT); professional development opportunities funded by the Richard S. Weinert Award, named in honor of CAG’s President Emeritus who served from 2000–2018; mentorship from esteemed industry leaders and conductors; and promotion to for-profit management agencies. After dozens of consultations with orchestras, conducting development programs and industry leaders, including CAG’s Conductors Advisory Circle, three conductors have been chosen as the inaugural cohort for the program: Michelle Di Russo, Assistant Conductor of the North Carolina Symphony; Kyle Dickson, an Assistant Conductor with the San Francisco Symphony as part of his role as a Salonen Conducting Fellow at the Colburn Conservatory’s Negaunee Conducting Program; and Ben Manis, Resident Conductor of Houston Grand Opera.
A recent article in the New York Times detailed how women and musicians of color have made considerable inroads as assistant conductors in recent years, poised to strongly influence the demographics of the top tier of orchestral leadership in years to come. With the industry on the brink of significant change, adding the new category was a natural fit, as CAG’s president Tanya Bannister explains:
“Representing conductors is a major new initiative for CAG. As we come out of the pandemic, we believe that it is more critical than ever to provide support for young conductors, which is something that has historically been lacking in our field. CAG has launched some of the most amazing instrumentalists over the past 70+ years, and we feel this is a natural next step for the organization that will provide mutual benefits for the whole roster.”
The international visibility component of CAG’s new offering, facilitated by its ongoing partnership with YCAT, sets it apart from other young artist programs. Alasdair Tait, YCAT’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director, elaborates:
“This new initiative in CAG’s support for emerging artists in North America is both timely and really exciting. I’m thrilled that, through YCAT and CAG’s strong partnership, we can also play an important role in supporting these young conductors, offering additional advice, mentoring and introductions across the Atlantic.”
CAG is deeply grateful to the following members of its Conductors Advisory Circle for their vital and enthusiastic support in the launch of this new program: Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, Chief Conductor of Austria’s recreation – Grosses Orchester Graz at Styriarte, and Artistic Partner of Houston’s ROCO chamber orchestra; Linda Marder, President of CM Artists; Meghan Martineau, Vice President of Artistic Planning for the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Tito Muñoz, Music Director of the Phoenix Symphony; Lee Prinz, President & CEO of Colbert Artists Management; Asadour Santourian, Vice President for Artistic Administration and Artistic Advisor of the Aspen Music Festival; Martin Sher, Senior Vice President for Artistic Planning and Programs for the New World Symphony; Kerry Smith, Director of Artistic Planning for Sarasota Orchestra; Ed Yim, Chief Content Officer and Senior Vice President of New York’s WQXR; and Paul ​Jan Zdunek, Founder and President of Orchestra US.
About Michelle Di Russo
Argentinian-Italian conductor Michelle Di Russo was recently appointed Interim Director of Orchestras at Cornell University and as the new Assistant Conductor of the North Carolina Symphony. She is also a Conducting Fellow both in the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Project Inclusion program and the Dallas Opera Hart Institute. Former posts include serving as Assistant Conductor for the Phoenix Youth Symphony Orchestra and as cover conductor and assistant for the Phoenix Symphony and Arizona Musicfest. Di Russo was the recipient of a 2020 American Austrian Foundation/Faber Young Conductors Fellowship and a Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation Conducting Scholarship at the Cabrillo Music Festival of Contemporary Music, and has served as a conducting fellow at the Cortona Sessions for New Music in Italy.
About Kyle Dickson
American conductor Kyle Dickson received the 2021 GPMF Advocate for Arts Award, and is an Assistant Conductor with the San Francisco Symphony as part of his role as a Salonen Conducting Fellow at the Colburn Conservatory’s Negaunee Conducting Program. He serves as Assistant Conductor of the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles and previously served as Music Director of Chicago’s South Loop Symphony. Dickson was selected as a Conducting Fellow at the 2021 National Orchestral Institute’s Conducting Academy with Marin Alsop and James Ross, and from 2019 to 2021 was a Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellow with Chicago Sinfonietta under the mentorship of Music Director Mei-Ann Chen. In 2020, he was selected as Assistant Conductor of Spoleto Festival USA for the world premiere of Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels’ opera, Omar (set to premiere in 2022). He works regularly with youth ensembles and has given numerous masterclasses and webinars for many arts programs including the Chicago Youth Symphony Ensembles and Ravinia’s El Sistema program. In 2021, he earned his master’s degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University, studying with Victor Yampolsky. Also a violinist, Dickson received degrees in violin performance from Michigan State University (BM) and DePaul University (MM), and was a prizewinner at the 2010 NANM National Concerto Competition.
About Ben Manis
Conductor Ben Manis joined Houston Grand Opera as Resident Conductor in September 2019 after completing his Master of Music degree at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where he studied with Larry Rachleff. He has served as cover conductor for the St. Louis and Dallas Symphonies, working with conductors David Robertson and Stéphane Denève, and was winner of the 2019 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award. He returned to the Aspen Music Festival for the third consecutive summer in 2019, and appeared in Aspen again this past summer as the winner of the Aspen Conducting Prize. He studied cello and conducting at the Colburn School, where he conducted outreach concerts in public schools across Los Angeles and performed Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto as soloist with conductor Robert Spano. Manis hails from Chicago, and has attended the Pierre Monteux School and the International Conducting Workshop and Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria.
About Concert Artists Guild (CAG)
Concert Artists Guild empowers musicians and launches careers that are sustainable, unique, and relevant. Through mentorship and performance opportunities, CAG identifies and develops young artists who will make an impact in the world through music. Since 1951, CAG has helped more than 500 young musicians launch careers. Winners of CAG’s annual competition receive comprehensive management support, New York performances, concert bookings and professional career development and coaching.