This young rising star from Philly just got the call-up of a lifetime

Kensho Watanabe

The Philadelphia Inquirer | By David Patrick Stearns

Kensho Watanabe can barely fathom the turn of events that found him on stage leading the Philadelphia Orchestra last weekend — with three hours’ notice.

 “I know what happened,” Watanabe said in an interview this week. “But my brain is still processing it.”

Surreal is one word that comes to mind, he said. Watanabe was notified at 5 p.m. Saturday that music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin had come down with a virus and could not conduct the 8 p.m. program at the Kimmel Center.

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Published June 29, 2017
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Kensho Watanabe appointed assistant conductor of Philadelphia Orchestra

Kensho Watanabe

Kensho Watanabe

Kensho Watanabe ’09BS ’10MM has been appointed assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he’ll serve under acclaimed Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Watanabe studied conducting with Otto-Werner Mueller at the Curtis Institute of Music, earning a Diploma in 2013. As the school’s first Rita E. Hauser Conducting Fellow, Watanabe was mentored for two years by Nézet-Séguin and had “incredible access” to the Philadelphia Orchestra, with which he’s worked as a substitute violinist. Watanabe has directed numerous Curtis Opera Theatre productions and served as an assistant to Nézet-Séguin for Opera de Montréal’s 2015 production of Elektra.

Watanabe studied molecular, cell, and developmental biology at Yale College, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in 2009. He earned his master’s degree in violin from the Yale School of Music, where he studied, as he had as an undergraduate, with Syoko Aki.

“Being at Yale really sparked my interest in conducting,” Watanabe said, citing Yale Symphony Orchestra Music Director Toshiyuki Shimada, whom he assisted as an undergraduate, as a particularly supportive figure.

The summer after completing his undergraduate degree, and in the summers of 2010 and 2011, Watanabe studied with Michael Jinbo at the Pierre Monteux School and Summer Music Festival, where his interest in conducting took hold and led him to Mueller’s studio at Curtis.

In addition to his work with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Watanabe’s upcoming schedule includes appearances with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, San Diego Symphony Orchestra, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra Métropolitain in Montreal.

Looking forward to his work in Philadelphia, Watanabe said, “I’ve really grown up with this orchestra. I’ve learned so much from this orchestra.”

Watanabe’s appointment begins with the 2016-2017 Philadelphia Orchestra season.

Published July 19, 2016
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Penderecki Conducts Penderecki: The master of contemporary music leads the Yale Philharmonia

So acute is [Penderecki’s] ear for orchestral sound and so clever his manipulation of it that wood, metal and string take on an anthropomorphic quality.
–Bernard Holland, The New York Times

The Yale School of Music presents the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale in Penderecki Conducts Penderecki on Thursday, April 29 at 8 pm in Woolsey Hall. Krzysztof Penderecki, one of the most influential and prolific composers of our time, makes a rare New Haven appearance conducting the Yale Philharmonia and faculty soloists William Purvis, horn, and Syoko Aki, violin. The program features four of the composer’s most important orchestral works, from the early and groundbreaking work Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima to the New Haven premiere of the 2008 Horn Concerto.

The “acute ear for orchestral sound” that so struck Bernard Holland will be showcased in a program that spans nearly a half century of composition. In addition to the Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (1960) and Symphony No. 4 (1989), Penderecki and the orchestra will be joined by two Yale faculty artists: violinist Syoko Aki and French hornist William Purvis. Aki will be reunited with Penderecki and the orchestra in the Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra (1967), which they performed at Yale in 1977. Purvis will be the soloist in the Concerto for Horn and Orchestra (2008), subtitled “Winterreise.”

With a career that spans nearly five decades, Penderecki is one of the pioneering composers of the modern day. He was an iconic figure of the 1960s avant-garde and remains a vibrantly vital voice in contemporary music. His numerous awards include the UNESCO Award for Threnody and the Grawemeyer Award for the Symphony No. 4. Penderecki has a longstanding relationship with Yale; he served on the faculty of the School of Music from 1973 to 1979 and returned in 2005 to conduct his choral work Credo.

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Published April 15, 2010
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Syoko Aki appointed Coordinator of Strings

SyokoAkiThe Yale School of Music is pleased to announce the appointment of faculty violinist Syoko Aki as Coordinator of Strings.

Upon joining the Yale faculty in 1968, Aki became a member of the Yale Quartet, which earned international praise for its performances and many fine recordings. She has also recorded music by faculty composer Martin Bresnick on Composers Records label, and has recently recorded a disc of works by Schumann, Schubert, Debussy, and Gershwin with her long-time faculty colleague, pianist Joan Panetti, on the Epson label. Another highlight of her collaboration with Panetti was a complete performance of Mozart’s violin sonatas over two seasons as part of Yale’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Syoko Aki appears regularly in Yale concerts, both in New Haven and at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. She was also the concertmaster and soloist with the New York Chamber Symphony and a founding member of the Saito Kinen Orchestra and Mito Chamber Orchestra in Japan. MORE

Published March 31, 2009
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Memorial concert to honor Jesse Levine

Event will feature spoken tributes and performances by colleagues and students

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The Yale School of Music presents a memorial concert in honor of Jesse Levine on Sunday, February 22 at 4 pm in Battell Chapel, 300 College Street in New Haven.  In addition to spoken tributes and remembrances will be performances by Levine’s former colleagues and students. Performers from the Yale School of Music will include the Yale Cellos, conducted by Aldo Parisot; Syoko Aki, violin; Frank Morelli, bassoon; pianists Joan Panetti, and Elizabeth Parisot; and several of Professor Levine’s viola students.  Levine’s longtime colleague and musical partner, pianist Morey Ritt, will  also perform.

Admission to the memorial concert is free. For further information, please visit the School of Music web site at music.yale.edu, or call 203 432-4158.

Jesse Levine, violist, teacher, and conductor, was known for his loyalty, devotion, sense of humor, strength of convictions, and compassion. He was Professor in the Practice of Viola and Chamber Music and coordinator of the String Department at the Yale School of Music since 1983. He was principal violist of the Buffalo, Dallas, Baltimore and New Jersey symphony orchestras, and was the music director of several orchestras, including the New Britain and Norwalk symphony orchestras, Orquesta del Principado de Asturias, Chappaqua Orchestra, and the Feld Ballet. Known for his work in contemporary music, he was frequently invited to conduct the Buffalo Philharmonic in its annual North American New Music Festival and participated in the annual June-in-Buffalo Festival. In the dual role of conductor/teacher Mr. Levine conducted the National Youth Orchestra of Spain, the Youth Orchestra of Andalucia, and the Youth Orchestra of Catalonia. As a member of the Bruch Trio he recorded the music of Max Bruch, Rebecca Clarke, Jean Francaix, Gordon Jacob, and Mozart for Summit Records.

Mr. Levine previously served on the faculties of the State University of New York at Buffalo, Stony Brook and Purchase, and the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He presented master classes at conservatories and  festivals throughout Spain and France. Jesse Levine studied principally at Mannes College of the Arts. He also studied conducting with Igor Markevitch in Monaco. Early career highlights included summers as principal violist at Tanglewood, performing the Stravinsky elegy on stage with the composer (and introducing him to his mother), as well as several missions to Argentina as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department. Jesse Levine is survived by his wife, Jill Pellett Levine, his sons Alexander and Josh, and his sister Lisa Nowakowski.

Published February 6, 2009
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