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FW Symphony Associate Conductor to Compete in the Big Leagues
by Jerome Weeks 17 May 2011

Andres Franco, the Fort Worth Symphony’s associate conductor, is one of 10 finalists in an event next week that hopes to become the Van Cliburn of conducting competitions.


Andres Franco, the Fort Worth Symphony‘s associate conductor has been named a finalist in the first International Conducting Competition to be held next week in Memphis. He is one of 10 finalists picked from a field of 226. The new contest is essentially modeled on the Van Cliburn Piano Competition (right down to the contestants staying with local hosts), and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra hopes to make it as prestigious.

The finalists will each lead the MSO for 20 minutes, employing the same three pieces (including bits of Beethoven’s Fifth and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring) — without any rehearsal. The second round will find the six remaining candidates conducting Ravel’s Piano Concerto with soloist Jura Margulis. The final round is narrowed to three contestants having 40 minutes to conduct Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony. Winner receives $7,500 and the chance to guest-conduct the MSO for a weekend this fall.

The full press release follows:


FORT WORTH – Andrés Franco, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s associate conductor, has been named a finalist in the inaugural International Conducting Competition held May 25-27 in Memphis. He is one of 10 young conductors (selected from a field of 226 from 35 nations) who will lead the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in next week’s competition, the first of its kind in the U.S.

As in Fort Worth’s Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, contestants will stay with host families and compete in three rounds of concerts before a jury and local audiences. In the first round, the 10 contestants will each lead the Memphis Symphony in the same three pieces—including portions of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring—without having the chance to rehearse the orchestra beforehand. “As a conductor you have to be able to convey your musical ideas through your gestures,” says Franco. “In the first round, you have just 12 minutes in front of the orchestra and the repertoire is about 20 minutes long, so I’m sure there’s not much chance to talk!”

The six candidates who advance to the second round will accompany guest artist Jura Margulis in Ravel’s Piano Concerto. In the final round on May 27, three conductors will have 40 minutes to conduct Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9. The winner will receive $7,500 and the opportunity to conduct a weekend of concerts with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in the fall. The competition jury is made up of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Robert Spano; Anthony Fogg of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; and Pulitzer-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis. The Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Mei-Ann Chen, also will vote and members of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra collectively get one vote.

As associate conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Andrés Franco, a native of Colombia, has gained invaluable experience leading a wide range of concerts, from community and educational concerts (throughout Tarrant County and beyond) to several Concerts in the Gardens as well as festival, specials and pops concerts at Bass Hall. “Being in front of and around an orchestra day in and day out and trying different things with the FWSO has definitely been an incredible learning experience,” Franco says. “Also, the fact that everyone—Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the musicians, the administration and the community—have always been very supportive has been very inspiring.” Franco also is principal conductor of the Caminos del Inka Ensemble and from 2004 to 2010 was music director of the Philharmonia of Kansas City. He has studied conducting with Leonard Slatkin, Gerard Schwarz, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Helmut Rilling, Nicholas Uljanov and Germán Gutiérrez.

Born into a family of musicians, Franco started his studies under the direction of his father, Jorge Franco. An accomplished pianist, Andrés Franco studied with Cliburn gold medalist José Feghali, Rudolph Buchbinder and Lev Naumov. He received his master’s degrees in piano performance and conducting from TCU, and lives in Fort Worth with his wife, FWSO principal clarinetist Victoria Luperi.