Kelly Kuo, the recipient of a 2009 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award for young conductors, was praised by the Cincinnati Enquirer as “a leader of exceptional musical gifts, who has a clear technique on the podium and an impressive rapport with audiences” (Cincinnati Enquirer). His self-effacing, collaborative style along with his fresh approach to programming have been heralded by critics and audiences alike.
Kuo recently extended his contract through 2018 as Artistic Director of Oregon Mozart Players as a result of having “transformed this chamber group into…a band of professional, enthusiastic and superior musicians, playing confidently as one unit” (The Register Guard). A versatile musician with a diverse repertoire including over 80 operas, he continues as Music Director and Conductor of the Butler Opera Center at The University of Texas at Austin and is a finalist for Music Director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.
Kuo’s recent conducting engagements include a debut with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and concert:nova, successful returns to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, Anchorage Opera, and the Malta Philharmonic, guest directing the New Music Ensemble of the Butler School of Music, and acting as cover conductor for Peter Oundjian with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. His 2016-17 season includes a return to Lyric Opera of Chicago to lead Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, a program of opera scenes with the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center, and a collaboration with Ballet Fantastique and cellist DaXun Zhang. He will also lead Butler Opera Center productions of Gianni Schicchi/Suor Angelica, Little Women, and Die Zauberflöte. Subscription concerts with Oregon Mozart Players include collaborations with pianist Anton Nel, cellist Bion Tsang, and violinist Susanne Hou.
Still active as a keyboardist, his recent performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 was described as having been played “with untiring deliberation, especially drawing in the audience during the extended cadenza of the first movement” (The Register Guard) and in his collaboration with the Lexington Philharmonic’s performances of The Four Seasons, “Kuo’s elegant work at the harpsichord was superb. In fact, the most beautiful moment of the entire concert was the second movement of “Fall,” with Kuo’s ravishing solos on the harpsichord’s lute setting” (Lexington Herald-Leader). As pianist for the Fenici Trio, he also recently performed concerts in Des Moines and Raleigh. Upcoming keyboard performances include chamber music at the Zenith Music Festival in Des Moines, Brahms lieder with baritone David Small and violist Martin Beaver, a faculty recital at the University of Texas at Austin with flutist Marianne Gedigian, cellists Bion Tsang and Joshua Gindele, pianist Anton Nel, and hornist Patrick Hughes, recitals with Third Angle Ensemble Artistic Director and violinist Ron Blessinger, soprano Mary Dunleavy, and violinist Susanne Hou, in addition to Bach’s Concerto for Flute, Violin, and Harpsichord with Oregon Mozart Players.
Prior to his current positions, Mr. Kuo was Music Director of the Xavier University Chamber Orchestra, Assistant Conductor of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and, for five years, Assistant Conductor and Artistic Administrator for Opera Pacific. Other engagements have included the Beijing National Centre for the Arts, Festival Euro Mediterraneo, Lexington Philharmonic, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera. He has also conducted operas for Kentucky Opera, Anchorage Opera, Eugene Opera, Lyric Opera San Diego, New England Conservatory, and New York Harlem’s production of Porgy and Bess in Hamburg, Munich, and Las Palmas.
Kelly holds a Master in Music in Piano from the Manhattan School of Music, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Oregon where he majored in both music and Chinese, and is an alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. A native of Oregon, he began his musical studies on the violin at the age of five, made his debut as a piano soloist with the Walla Walla Symphony five years later. He counts among his mentors Byron Janis and Dean Kramer, both students of the Russian piano virtuoso, Vladimir Horowitz.