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A versatile and dynamic musician, conductor Eric Townell became the third Music Director in the 67-year history of the Rochester Oratorio Society in 2006. He has led the ROS in subscription concerts, regional outreach performances, live radio broadcasts, televised concerts, collaborative concerts with the region's leading arts organizations and an award-winning tour to Beijing and Shanghai for the 2008 Olympic Cultural Festival. He has prepared the ROS for several appearances with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra under Christopher Seaman, Hugh Wolff and Jeff Tyzik in music of Bach, Beethoven, Vaughan Williams, Handel, Verdi, Gershwin and Orff, all of which have been recorded for broadcast. Eric has appeared to critical acclaim as guest conductor of the Silesian State Opera Orchestra in the Czech Republic and the Milwaukee, Lincoln, Madison, Adrian, Fox Valley, Redwood, Waukesha and Hershey Symphony Orchestras and the Prince George's Philharmonic in the US. Eric has conducted holiday, special event and regional outreach concerts as a frequent guest conductor for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra., including their 2012 Messiah, which was selected for national broadcast, and the 2013 Ninetieth Anniversary Concert of the RPO, sponsored by the City of Rochester. As Music Director of the Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra (1991-2001), Eric conducted the its first concert broadcast recordings for Wisconsin Public Radio. He led an energetic series of commissions of works by American women and collaborated with soloists Mischa Dichter, Edgar Meyer, flutist Jim Walker and baritone Kurt Ollmann, among many others. In 2001, Eric substituted on short notice to conduct the Hellas Soloists Orchestra of Patras, Greece, for its appearances in Italy.
Twice winner of the International Opera Conducting Course/Competition, he made his European debut conducting Eugene Onegin at the Silesian State Opera Company of the Czech Republic. He conducted an acclaimed production of Rigoletto with L'Opera Piccola of Chicago in 2002 has led performances for the national touring company of Amahl and the Night Visitors and concerts of opera scenes and arias with the Beethoven Chamber Orchestra of the Czech Republic. With the Empire State Lyric Theatre in Rochester, Eric led Rossini’s La Cambiale di Matrimonio in March of 2012. In 2013, as artistic director of the Chamber Opera Festival for Rochester Lyric Opera, he led a brilliant account of Donizetti’s rarely-performed gem Rita. He was subsequently engaged as Artistic Director for the company as a whole, programming its Chamber Opera Festival and innovative performances at the Strong Museum of Play. He led the widely acclaimed 2014 performances of Haydn’s Lo Speziale in a new translation for RLO.
As Music Director of the Master Singers of Milwaukee (2003-2010), Eric led the choir in a concert of Nordic music in New York City in May, 2005 at the invitation of the Finnish government. During Eric's tenure, the Master Singers offered an annual series of subscription concerts featuring innovative, collaborative performances with Wisconsin's leading ensembles, a summer opera series and numerous outreach appearances throughout Wisconsin. In 2009, Eric prepared the Master Singers for their debut with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 8 under Andreas Delfs. As Music Director of the Festival Choir of Madison (1993-2006), Eric directed four live-broadcast concerts from the Elvehjem Museum of Art for Wisconsin Public Radio. He led the Festival Choir in its inaugural CD, Wisconsin Sings!, selections from which were broadcast nationwide by National Public Radio. During his tenure, Eric and the choir completed an impressive series of commissions, premiering and recording works by Brent Michael Davids, Jean Belmont, Daron Hagen and Stephen Paulus, and were regular collaborators with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Oakwood Chamber Players and the Wisconsin Brass Quintet. Eric frequently prepared the Festival Choir for Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performances, including Concerts on the Square for audiences numbering in the tens of thousands at the Wisconsin State Capitol; the second of these was telecast over Wisconsin Public Television in 2003. Eric Townell’s festival appearances include the Ost-West Musikfest (Austria) and Festival dà Bach á Bartók (Italy).
An experienced and effective communicator on music and arts topics, Eric is in demand as clinician and adjudicator for choral and orchestral festivals and for choirs of all types across the country. He has offered pre-concert chats, creative consultation and program annotation for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic and several other ensembles and chamber music series. Eric is a frequent commentator on arts topics on WXXI radio. His orchestral and choral conducting were the subject of the 1994 Wisconsin Public Radio broadcast “Music from Wisconsin: A Wisconsin Conductor.”