Press Room

Young Musicians and Female Conductor Make Debuts at Miller Outdoor Theatre for Free Concerts

HOUSTON (June 28, 2018) – Conductor Jessica Cottis brings her talents to Houston for her debut performance on Friday, June 29, at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Cottis joins the orchestra at 8:30 p.m. for the British-American program Gershwin’s Concerto in F, as part of the ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights.

Cottis opens the evening with Elgar’s proto-cinematic piece, Froissart, Concert Overture. Jazz pianist Aaron Diehl takes the solo spotlight with Gershwin’s heavily jazz-influenced Concerto in F as he makes his Houston Symphony debut. Cottis concludes the program with Vaughan Williams’ brilliant love letter to London, his Symphony No. 2, A London Symphony.

The Houston Symphony returns to Miller the following evening under the direction of Associate Conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra Kensho Watanabe, who makes his debut in the program Schumann and Fancy Free. Watanabe and the Houston Symphony continue its celebrations of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday with Three Dance Variations from Fancy Free.

The program continues with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor featuring the Silver Medal Winner of the 2018 Ima Hogg Competition Hyun Jae Lim. Composed during a time of personal hardship, Watanabe concludes with Schumann’s noble and triumphant Symphony No. 2.

The remaining concert in the ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights series will take place on Wednesday, July 4. Admission is free, but tickets are required for the covered seated area. Tickets are available at the Miller Theatre Box Office the day of the performance between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Any remaining tickets are released one hour before the performance time. Visit for more information.

Friday, June 29, 8:30 p.m.
Jessica Cottis, conductor
Aaron Diehl, piano
Elgar: Froissart, Concert Overture
Gershwin: Concerto in F
Vaughn Williams: Symphony No. 2, A London Symphony

Saturday, June 30, 8:30 p.m.
Kensho Watanabe, conductor
Hyun Jae Lim, violin
Bernstein: Three Dance Variations from Fancy Free
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor
Schumann: Symphony No. 2

About Jessica Cottis
Hailed as “one to watch,” Jessica Cottis is a charismatic figure who brings dynamism, intensity and clarity to her performances. Recent career highlights include appearances with the London, Royal and Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestras; the London, Malmö, Gälve, Sydney, BBC and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras; the BBC National Orchestra of Wales; the BBC Concert Orchestra; Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi (laVerdi); l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo; Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya; the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and a recording with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

In the 2018-19 season, Jessica debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and revisits the City of London Sinfonia, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, laVerdi, Barcelona’s OBC, Canberra Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne’s Monash Academy Orchestra. She also conducts premieres of two new opera commissions for London’s Royal Opera House and film with live orchestra productions of ET, Jurassic Park, Jaws, Casino Royale, Vertigo, Fantasia and The Addams Family.

Her posts have included assistant conductor at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (2009-2011), fellow in conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (2009-2011) and assistant conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (2012-2014), where she was lauded as “one of the big hopes for change.” Jessica became principal conductor of the Glasgow New Music Expedition in 2014 and associate member of the Royal Academy of Music in 2015.

Born in Australia and a dual British-Australian citizen, Jessica was awarded a first class honors degree in organ, piano and musicology from the Australian National University and continued her studies with Marie-Claire Alain in Paris, winning awards from the Royal Philharmonic Society and Royal College of Organists. A wrist injury halted her playing career, and after reading law, she began conducting studies in 2006 with Colin Metters and Sir Colin Davis at the Royal Academy of Music. Jessica was awarded the Academy’s top conducting prizes upon graduation and was also a Manson Fellow in composition. Her mentors have included Vladimir Ashkenazy and Donald Runnicles.

Jessica has filmed projects for Play School (ABC Australia), CBeebies (BBC) and the Royal Opera House and has appeared on the BBC Woman’s Hour special, World Service, Today, Maestro at the Opera and other programs. She has also conducted projects with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Sistema Scotland and London’s Royal Philharmonic Society. Jessica lives in South London and spends her free time taking helicopter flying lessons.

About Aaron Diehl
Pianist Aaron Diehl is one of the most sought after jazz virtuosos, consistently playing with what The New York Times describes as “melodic precision, harmonic erudition, and elegant restraint.” With his meticulously thought-out performances, collaborations and compositions, Aaron is a leading force in jazz today.

Recent career highlights include serving as music director for the Jazz at Lincoln Center New Orleans Songbook concert series; the New York premiere of Philip Glass’ complete Etudes; collaboration with the Spanish flamenco guitarist Dani De Morón; and touring with Grammy®-nominated jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Jazz in Marciac, Newport Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Istanbul Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott’s and La Cigale.

His second album on Mack Avenue Records, Space, Time, Continuum, emphasizes intergenerational artistic collaboration with performances by Benny Golson (tenor saxophone), Joe Temperley (baritone saxophone), Quincy Davis (drums) and David Wong (bass) playing Aaron’s original compositions. The title track, featuring vocalist Charenee Wade, was co-written by Salvant. The Bespoke Man’s Narrative (2013), his first album (Mack Avenue Records), reached No.1 on the JazzWeek Jazz Chart and was hailed by JazzTimes for displaying “precision and polish.” His other albums include Live at The Players (2010) and Live at Caramoor (2008).

Aaron’s recent collaborations with internationally acclaimed artists and ensembles include: Warren Wolf, Lew Tabackin, Matt Wilson, Wycliffe Gordon, Wynton Marsalis and his Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. As one of the youngest-ever Monterey Jazz Festival Commission Artists, Aaron composed Three Streams of Expression in 2014, a work dedicated to pianist and composer John Lewis. His awards include the Jazz Journalists Association Award for Up and Coming Musician (2013), the Prix du Jazz Classique (2012) and the Cole Porter Fellowship (2011) from the American Pianists Association. He was the inaugural artistic director of the Catskill Jazz Factory.

Aaron is a graduate of The Juilliard School, where he studied with Kenny Barron, Eric Reed and Oxana Yablonskaya. He lives in Harlem and enjoys spending time in the sky when not on tour or recording. As a licensed pilot, one of his favorite planes is the Beechcraft Bonanza.

About Kensho Watanabe
Kensho Watanabe is currently assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and was the inaugural conducting fellow of the Curtis Institute of Music from 2013 to 2015, under the mentorship of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. In April 2017, he came to worldwide attention by stepping in at the last minute for an indisposed Nézet-Séguin to make his critically acclaimed subscription debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra and pianist Daniil Trifonov.

Equally at home in both symphonic and operatic repertoire, Kensho has led numerous operas with the Curtis Opera Theatre, most recently Puccini’s La rondine in 2017 and La bohème in 2015. He served as assistant conductor to Nézet-Séguin on a new production of Strauss’ Elektra at Montreal Opera.

Symphonic highlights include conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra with Hilary Hahn, plus re-engagements with the Orchestre Métropolitain, Alabama Symphony Orchestra and the San Diego Symphony where he is a conducting fellow.

An accomplished violinist, Kensho received his master’s degree in music from the Yale School of Music and served as a substitute violinist in the Philadelphia Orchestra, 2012-2016.Cognizant of the importance of the training and development of young musicians, he has served on the staff of the Greenwood Music Camp since 2007, currently serving as the orchestra conductor.

Kensho Watanabe is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with distinguished conducting pedagogue Otto-Werner Mueller. Additionally, he holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Yale College, where he studied molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

About Hyun Jae Lim
Recently featured as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 2017-18 season, Hyun Jae Lim was invited back to perform with the orchestra in the same year. Winner of the 2017 Philadelphia Orchestra Alfred M. Greenfield Student Competition, Hyun Jae Lim has top prizes in numerous international competitions, including Singapore International Violin Competition, Great Mountains Festival Concerto Competition and Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.

She was featured on NPRʼs From the Top, 15th anniversary show. As a chamber musician, she has collaborated with world-renowned artists Vadim Gluzman, Gary Hoffman, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Peter Wiley, Steve Tenenbom and many others. She has participated in masterclasses with Gluzman, Gil Shaham, Hilary Hahn, Pinchas Zukerman, Ivry Gitlis, Benjamin Schmid, Pamela Frank and Dmitry Sitkovetsky.

Hyun has attended the Keshet Eilon Summer Mastercourse, National Arts Centre Young Artists Program, Heifetz International Music Institute, Aspen Music Festival and School and the Great Mountains Music Festival and School. She entered the Curtis Institute of Music in 2012 and is pursuing her studies with Ashkenasi and Arnold Steinhardt.

About the Houston Symphony
During the 2018-19 season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its fifth season with Music Director Andrés Orozco- Estrada and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring and recording activities. The Houston Symphony, one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $33.9 million, the full-time ensemble of 88 professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s four Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 900 community-based performances each year, reaching thousands of people in Greater Houston.

The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Naxos, Koch International Classics, Telarc, RCA Red Seal, Virgin Classics and, most recently, Dutch recording label PENTATONE. In 2017, the Houston Symphony was awarded an ECHO Klassik award for the live recording of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck under the direction of former Music Director Hans Graf. The orchestra earned its first Grammy nomination and Grammy Award at the 60th annual ceremony for the same recording in the Best Opera Recording category.

Mireya Reyna: (713) 337-8557,


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