Just 39 years old and already well-established as one of classical music’s most exciting and innovative young conductors, Eric Jacobsen combines fresh interpretations of the traditional canon with cutting-edge collaborations across musical genres.
Eric is artistic director and co-founder of The Knights, the uniquely adventurous NYC-based chamber orchestra. The ensemble grew out of late-night music reading parties with friends, good food and drink, and conversation. The group’s projects are wide-ranging, including a recent release of Beethoven and Brahms violin concertos with artist Gil Shaham, which critics are calling revolutionary.
Eric brings joy, storytelling, and a touch of humor to what he describes as “musical conversations” that delight audiences around the world, including those who don’t traditionally attend classical music concerts. In addition to conducting, he is a dedicated chamber musician (cello) and is a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble.
Jacobsen is married to Grammy winning singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan and they have a three-year-old daughter, Ivy Jo.
Principal Guest Conductor
Thomas Wilkins is currently principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Artistic Advisor for Education and Community Engagement at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and he holds the Henry A. Upper Chair of Orchestral Conducting at Indiana University. He recently stepped down after 17 successful years leading the Omaha Symphony and his guest conducting credits include every major American orchestra.
Devoted to promoting a life-long enthusiasm for music, Mr. Wilkins brings energy and commitment to audiences of all ages. He is hailed as a master at communicating and connecting with audiences. Following his highly successful first season with the Boston Symphony, the Boston Globe named him among the “Best People and Ideas of 2011.” In 2014, Mr. Wilkins received the prestigious “Outstanding Artist” award at the Nebraska Governor’s Arts Awards, for his significant contribution to music in the state while in 2018 Thomas Wilkins received the Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society conferred by Boston’s Longy School of Music.
Mr. Wilkins is a graduate of the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He and his wife Sheri-Lee are the proud parents of twin daughters, Erica and Nicole.
This is Robert Shoup’s 25th season as Chorus Master and Staff Conductor of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. His national and international conducting credits include the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra, ensembles from the Prague Radio Orchestra and Czech State Philharmonic, and numerous choral ensembles. He served as the Music Director of the all-professional Virginia Chorale from 1997-2007.
Critics have described Shoup’s choruses as “totally enthralling” and “completely mesmerizing,” and he has spearheaded numerous collaborations that have included music, dance and visual arts. His ensembles have been featured on numerous recordings, including two discs with the VSO for the Naxos label (Hailstork and Stravinsky). He served as Assistant Music Director for the Virginia Symphony and Virginia Arts Festival’s highly acclaimed production of the Leonard Bernstein “Mass” and coordinated the collaborating choruses for 2012 performances and recording of Mahler’s Eighth symphony known as the “Symphony of a Thousand.” His achievements include the creation and coordination of “American Voices”, a two week-long festival of American choral music with the Virginia Chorale and the VSO. The project earned one of seven major National Endowment for the Arts “American Masterpieces: Choral Music” grants. Shoup also prepared a nationally recruited choir of over 1,800 singers for the 400th Anniversary celebration of Jamestown.
Shoup is also a singer whom the Pittsburgh Post Gazette called “an especially fine tenor.” His vocal performances have included the role of John Adams in the world premiere performance of Adolphus Hailstork’s Crispus Attucks, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Fort Collins (CO) Symphony.
Shoup also serves as the Music Director at Second Presbyterian Church of Norfolk, and is the founding Artistic Director of the Norfolk Street Choir Project. The NSCP provides individuals affected by homelessness with both support services and opportunities to express themselves through singing and art. The Norfolk Street Choir was the subject of an Emmy Award winning documentary by WHRO Digital Media entitles “City Voices: Homelessness to Hopefulness.”
He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education (voice) from Duquesne University, and a Master’s degree in Conducting from Carnegie Mellon University where he studied with Grammy Award winning conductor Robert Page.
Helen Martell has dedicated her life’s work to music education and orchestral conducting. For over twenty-six years, she has taught all levels of orchestra for the Chesapeake and Norfolk Public Schools. In August 2021, she became the Director of Education and Staff Conductor with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. As a professional conductor, Helen Martell conducts the education and community engagement programs for the Virginia Symphony and is Music Director and Symphony Orchestra Conductor for the Bay Youth Orchestras of Virginia. Helen is happily married to the Artistic Administrator and Bass Trombonist of the Virginia Symphony, Rodney Martell, and they gladly call Norfolk home.
Music Director Laureate
JoAnn Falletta is internationally celebrated as a vibrant ambassador for music, an inspiring artistic leader, and a champion of American symphonic music. An effervescent and exuberant figure on the podium, she has been praised by The Washington Post as having “Toscanini’s tight control over ensemble, Walter’s affectionate balancing of inner voices, Stokowski’s gutsy showmanship, and a controlled frenzy worthy of Bernstein.” Acclaimed by The New York Times as “one of the finest conductors of her generation”, she serves as the Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center and music advisor to the Hawaii Symphony.
Ms. Falletta is invited to guest conduct many of the world’s finest symphony orchestras. Recent guest conducting highlights include debuts in Belgrade, Gothenburg, Lima, Bogotá, Helsingborg, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, a European tour with the Stuttgart Orchestra, return engagements with the Warsaw, Detroit, Phoenix, and Krakow Symphony Orchestras and a 13 city US tour with the Irish Chamber Orchestra with James Galway.
She has guest conducted over a hundred orchestras in North America, and many of the most prominent orchestras in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. Her North America guest conducting appearances have included the orchestras of Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Seattle, San Diego, Montreal, Toronto and the National Symphony and international appearances have included the London Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Korean Broadcast Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic, China National Symphony, Shanghai Symphony, Liverpool Philharmonic, Manchester BBC Philharmonic, Scottish BBC orchestra, Orchestra National de Lyon and Mannheim Orchestra among others. Ms. Falletta’s summer activities have taken her to numerous music festivals including Aspen, Tanglewood, the Hollywood Bowl, Wolf Trap, Mann Center, Meadow Brook, OK Mozart Festival, Grand Teton, Eastern, Peninsula and Brevard Festival.
Falletta is the recipient of many of the most prestigious conducting awards including the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductors Award, the coveted Stokowski Competition, and the Toscanini, Ditson and Bruno Walter Awards for conducting, as well as the American Symphony Orchestra League’s prestigious John S. Edwards Award. She is an ardent champion of music of our time, introducing over 500 works by American composers, including more than 110 world premieres. Hailing her as a “leading force for the music of our time”, she has been honored with twelve ASCAP awards. Ms. Falletta served as a Member of the National Council on the Arts during both the George W Bush and Obama administrations.
Under Falletta’s direction, the VSO has risen to celebrated artistic heights. The VSO, which made critically acclaimed debuts at the Kennedy Center and New York’s Carnegie Hall under Falletta and entered into their first multinational recording agreement with Naxos, performs classics, pops and family concert series in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News and Williamsburg.
In addition to her current posts with the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Virginia Symphony, Brevard Music Center and Hawaii Symphony, Ms. Falletta has held the positions of principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Phoenix Symphony, music director of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and music director of the Denver Chamber Orchestra.
Ms. Falletta received her undergraduate degree from the Mannes College of Music in New York and her master’s and doctorate degrees from The Juilliard School.
JoAnn Falletta on NPR | The Innovative Mosaic Of American Symphonies