‘Oh let me shine like a morning star!’ In the 20th century, music spoke with many voices, but it’s only recently that we’ve truly started to recognise the originality and ambition of the African American classical tradition. The RSNO’s inspirational Assistant Conductor Kellen Gray was born in South Carolina and he’s passionate about the music of pioneers like William Grant Still and William Levi Dawson – as well as modern masters like the Pulitzer Prize-winning George Walker. Expect intense emotions and melodies to spare.
Repertoire includesWalker - Lyric for Strings Still - Symphony No1 Afro-American Dawson - Negro Folk Symphony
Assistant Conductor Kellen Gray
Conductor Kellen Gray is Assistant Conductor of the RSNO; his two-year tenure commencing in 2021.
Versatility and innovation are the hallmarks of American conductor Kellen Gray. Newly named Assistant Conductor of the 125-year-old Royal Scottish National Orchestra, he begins his tenure April 2021. An enthusiastic communicator both on and off the podium, Maestro Gray is equally passionate about traditional concerts as he is experimental and integrative multimedia programming. Acknowledged as a skilled relationship builder in the communities in which he serves and a staunch champion of music education, Gray’s duties with RSNO will also include work with the Orchestra’s pioneering learning and engagement programme. Gray also currently serves as Assistant Conductor of South Carolina’s Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Charleston Symphony Youth Orchestra, a position he has held since 2018.
Recent and upcoming engagements include the Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Virginia Symphony, Charlotte Ballet, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Philharmonic, Northwest Florida Symphony, and Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra.
Past performances of note include Kellen’s Chicago Symphony Center debut with Chicago Sinfonietta, with Picture This Post commenting on his “…laser-like focus that allowed the entire orchestra to seem to become one organism.” Of his debut at North Carolina’s Eastern Music Festival, Classical Voice of North Carolina praised him for “…gestures so smooth and polished they’re almost choreography…” At a 2017 festival celebrating the 100th birthday of Georgia-born author Carson McCullers, Gray was awarded the honor of guest-conducting a collaboration of the music of David Diamond and the premiere of award-winning NY actor/director Karen Allen’s directorial debut film, “A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud.”
Off-stage, Maestro Gray has served on several panels, including as a discussion panelist for the 2018 League of American Orchestras conference on the value of leadership pipelines in classical music based on diversity, inclusion, and equity.
A native of Rock Hill, South Carolina, Kellen Grey earned a Bachelor’s degree in Violin Performance and an Artists’ Diploma in Orchestral Conducting from the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University, and a Master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting from Valdosta State University in Georgia. Prior to his Charleston Symphony Orchestra appointment, Mr. Gray was a Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellow, and later, Assistant Conductor, at Chicago Sinfonietta under Music Director Mei-Ann Chen. Other prior posts include serving as Assistant Conductor at the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra under Music Director Howard Hsu and Music Director of the Valdosta Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2014-16, and as one of eight Conducting Fellows at North Carolina’s Eastern Music Festival under the tutelage of Gerard Schwarz, Grant Cooper, and Jose-Luis Novo.
The RSNO Assistant Conductorship is a two-year post and benefits from the support of the Solti Foundation.