ABOUT THE MUSIC DIRECTOR

 

GUEST CONDUCTORS, INTERIM MUSIC DIRECTORS

Bryan Nies and Paul Schrage

About Bryan Nies

Bryan Nies is the Associate Conductor of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Principal Conductor of Festival Opera, Lecturer at Stanford University, and continues to conduct engaging modern opera and symphonic concerts. He returned to Festival Opera in 2016, to conduct performances of Mozart’s Die Entfuhrung in a “Star Trek,” performances of Weill’s “Seven Deadly Sins” in 2017, and in 2019 with Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah.” With West Edge Opera, he conducted Laura Kaminsky’s Transgender opera “As One” (West Coast Premiere), and has conducted Erling Wold’s last three operas, “Queer,” “Certitude and Joy (World Premiere),” and “Uksus.” In 2012, he completed an eight year tenure as Principal Conductor of Oakland Youth Orchestra, which he led on international tours including Costa Rica and Australia and New Zealand during the orchestra’s 40th season. With “superb musical direction,” Bryan conducted sold-out performances of Puccini’s Turandot, Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella, and Bizet’s Carmen at Festival Opera to rave reviews that stated, “Nies is undeniably a talent to watch.” In addition, he has been a cover conductor for the St. Louis Symphony, conducted performances with Opera Idaho (“Cosi fan Tutte” and “Barber of Seville”, and the Oakland Chamber Ensemble. With Eugene Onegin, Bryan made his Opera San Jose debut as principal conductor, after serving as assistant conductor for 12 company productions between 2003 and 2012: Don Pasquale, Die Zauberflote, The Crucible, Un Ballo in Maschera, Manon, La Rondine, Werther, Barber of Seville, Die Fledermaus, La Voix Humaine, Pagliacci, and the west coast premiere of Anna Karenina, becoming the second conductor to perform the work. 

Pursuing an avid interest in all musical genres, Mr. Nies has also been an associate music director with American Musical Theater of San Jose, Theatreworks in Palo Alto, and was on the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Jose State University where he was director of orchestras and opera. He regularly performs in recital and has debuted his first recording “Amour sans ailes: Songs of Reynaldo Hahn” on the MSR Classics label in October of 2017 which was named “Best Lied Recording” 

During the summer of 2002, Mr. Nies was honored with a Leonard Bernstein Fellowship to participate as a conductor at the Tanglewood Music Center. There he conducted performances to rave reviews in the Boston Globe. In addition, he received personal instruction with many leading professional conductors, including, Michael Morgan, Roberto Abbado, Jeffery Tate, Hans Vonk, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, and Grant Llewellyn. 

A native of Chicago, IL, Mr. Nies also holds a B.M. in Piano Performance and a B.A. in Psychology from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. He has won numerous piano competitions in the Chicago area including a Gramma Fisher Scholarship to study at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. In addition, he has performed with William Warfield for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra, as their Assistant Conductor. Mr. Nies also served on the staff of Northwestern University’s Theater Department as vocal coach and piano accompanist. 

About Paul Schrage

American conductor and pianist Paul Schrage appears frequently throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and United States, leading orchestras, choruses and festivals from the podium as well as performing as a solo and chamber artist. He currently serves as Music Director of Symphonia Caritas, a professional orchestra that provides benefit concerts in partnership with other non-profits, and Music Director of the Midsummer Mozart Festival. Most recently, Paul was invited to serve as Interim Music Director of the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra and will make his first appearance in the 2019-2020 season.

With an extensive portfolio of conducting engagements, Paul has served as Music Director of the St. Peter’s Chamber Orchestra, Assistant Conductor of the Napa Valley Music Festival Academy Orchestra, as well as covering both Merced Symphony and Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra. Numerous Guest Conductor appearances include the San Francisco Academy Orchestra, Veridian Symphony, Nova Vista Symphony, and Sonoma County Philharmonic, among others. He also conducts and co-organizes the San Francisco Reading Orchestra, bringing some of the greatest orchestral literature to local musicians in an informal setting.

Combining his artistic endeavors with extensive experience as an impresario, Paul founded Symphonia Caritas in 2015 and has since partnered with numerous non-profit organizations such as Swords to Plowshares and the Gubbio Project, raising almost $100,000 in proceeds that go directly to the partner organizations. In addition to serving as Music Director for the Midsummer Mozart Festival, Paul assists with vital organizational components including fundraising campaigns and providing guidance on programming and concert production.

Paul has performed as soloist with numerous orchestras including the Union Avenue Chamber Orchestra, Winchester Symphony, and Master Sinfonia. He also regularly performs with the Midsummer Mozart Chamber Players, the resident chamber group of the Midsummer Mozart Festival. He has performed throughout the world in Europe, Brazil, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo at such prestigious venues as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the main square in Warsaw, Casa Huey Barbosa in Rio de Janiero, and with the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste of Kinshasa. Highlighted artistic collaborations include harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, conductors David Ramadanoff and Elena Sharkova, trombonist and composer Bobby Brookmeyer, drummers Louis Bellson and Steve Smith, guitarist Gary Wittner, violinist Ian Swensen, and singers Kindra Scharich, Nathan Granner and Christina Major. And as a champion of today’s music, he has performed world premieres of works by esteemed composers such as Ingrid Stozel, Rubin Zahra, and Paul Davies, among others. He has also served as Pianist-in-Residence of the Contemporary American Music Project, where he frequently collaborated with musical theorist and historian Cameron Logan.

Released in 2004, Paul’s first solo album showcased the music of Mozart, Liszt, and Copland, as well as original compositions and jazz selections. With the jazz trio the Sideways Trio he released “In Defense of Our Dreams”, alongside drummer Jeff Hanson and bassist Doug Pohorski, featuring arrangements of rock songs, classical works, and original compositions. Paul has served on the piano faculties of Foothill College, Vandercook College of Music, and the International Summer Jazz Academy.