The Maestro Challenge
After 27 years behind the baton of WPS, Maestro John Gordon Ross has announced his retirement.
Four Finalists have been chosen to guest conduct the Masterworks Concerts over the 2018-2019 season - a Maestro Challenge! Only one will be chosen to be the NEW conductor of Western Piedmont Symphony.
Bruce Anthony Kiesling
Mélisse Brunet is one of the six conductors selected from 161 applicants for the Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera. She was the Assistant Conductor of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic for two seasons and guest conducted with them for five concert series. She also regularly guest conducts five French professional orchestras, and made her guest conducting debuts in January with Symphoria in Syracuse, NY. Mélisse believes that each stage appearance is an opportunity for sharing her passion with the audience during concert talks and by the creative interaction of the musicians and the audience throughout the performance. Her passion for sharing has always been transposed through her teaching and mentoring of younger musicians. In July 2016, she was named the Director of Orchestral Activities at Appalachian State University where she is conducting all the symphonic orchestras, operas, and musicals.
Mélisse is a dynamic advocate of contemporary music and worked closely with composers Steven Stucky, Shulamit Ran, Michael Daugherty, Eugene O'Brien, and Jennifer Higdon. As an opera conductor, she conducted Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie, and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. She will be conducting the musical Sweeney Todd during the spring of 2018 in Boone, and in 2019, she will premiere a French musical by Reinhardt Wagner, staged by actress Zabou Breitman with the Opéra National Montpellier. Mélisse earned her Doctorate from the University of Michigan and has degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Paris Conservatoire, and the University La Sorbonne.
Youth Symphony Conductor
David Wortman earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Education Cum Laude from Appalachian State University, as well as a Jazz Certificate, in 1997. He earned the Master of Music in Music Education from UNCG in 2002. At UNCG, he played in, and arranged for the Jazz Ensemble. Research focused on current music education trends, saxophone big band literature, and hearing loss. Conducting studies were with Dr. John Locke. He earned National Board Certification (Early Adolescence Through Young Adulthood/Music) in 2010.
Mr. Wortman is in his tenth year as Band Director at Northview Middle School in Hickory. He teaches the band classes and the jazz band at Northview, and the jazz ensemble at Hickory High School. He has previously taught in Rockingham County and Guilford County. His bands have received consistent Superior ratings in Level IV music. Students have earned numerous chairs in all-county, all-district, and all-state honor bands. Jazz students have earned chairs in the Western Region Jazz Band, and All-State Jazz Band.
As a clinician, Mr. Wortman has been the conductor for the Northwest All-State Jazz Band, multiple All-County Honor Bands, NC Region Jazz Bands, the UNCG Summer Music Camp, Mars Hill Summer Music Camp, Yamaha Sounds of Summer, and other clinics. He frequently clinics and adjudicates bands on all levels. He is in demand as a saxophonist and woodwind doubler. He plays lead alto with the Hickory Jazz Orchestra and the Asheville Jazz Orchestra and has worked as a woodwind doubler for Holland America Cruise Lines. He plays with Phatt City, a Top 40/beach band, and is a founding member of the Just Friends Jazz Trio. His pit orchestra work extends over the last 20 years, and he has appeared as a soloist with the Western Piedmont Symphony.
He has performed with artists such as Rick Simerly, Jamey Abersold, Nick Brignola, Ernie Watts, Eric Darius, and Ronnie Milsap. He is the Past-Chair of the Western Region Jazz Section and Past-Chair of the NCMEA Jazz Section, in which he coordinated the annual professional conference, All-State Jazz Band and the coordination of the jazz education throughout the state. He was voted Catawba County Band Director of the Year in 2014 and the Wilmer Jenkins Teacher of the Year for Northview MS in 2012. Mr. Wortman is an adjunct faculty member of Lenoir-Rhyne University where he has conducted the LR Jazz Ensemble, was co-director of the Wind Symphony, and director the athletic bands. He also served as music education assistant coordinator, and taught the band techniques class. He is a member of the American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA) and is a Cannonball Saxophone Endorsed Educator.
After teaching for 20 years, he is grateful for all of the opportunities that have come, but more importantly, for all of the students he has been able to teach. He looks forward to new ones, especially those in the Western Piedmont Youth Symphony. He is most grateful for his children and family.
John Gordon Ross began his leadership of the Western Piedmont Symphony and youth symphony in 1991 and commences his 27th season as music director and conductor. Together with the orchestra, Maestro John has done much to enhance the musical environment of Hickory and the unifour region. Under his leadership, many significant American composers and soloists have visited Hickory for masterworks concerts and the orchestra has been recognized as a leader in the presentation of music by American composers of the present day and the past. In 1999 he was a major force in establishment of the Hickory metro string quartet residency which has been a major contributor to the musical improvement of the Western Piedmont Symphony. Today citizens of Western North Carolina get to attend professional quality concerts of both orchestral and chamber music that do not exist in many other much larger southeastern cities.
Maestro Ross was born in the small farming community of Selma, Indiana in 1951 and attended nearby Ball State University and the Cleveland Institute of Music for undergraduate studies. He and his wife Sarah Rocco Ross graduated together from the master of music program at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He has also studied summers at Tanglewood, the Domaine School, and was a fellow of the Scotia Festival of Music for three summers. His private conducting teachers were Walter Hendl, Thomas Briccetti, and Robert Hargreaves. He was also a participant in the conducting master classes of Pierre Boulez and Victor Yampolsky, and was an active participant in the seminars of Christopher Hogwood and Erich Leinsdorf.
He was music director and conductor of the Kingsport (TN) Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Chorus, and Youth Orchestra from 1981-1991 and served in a variety of conducting capacities with the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra, including music director and conductor from 1977-1979. Guest conducting engagements include the Cleveland Philharmonic, Johnson City (TN) Symphony, Lima and Blue Ash (OH) Symphony Orchestras. He is also a former assistant conductor of the Canton (OH) Symphony Orchestra and conductor of the Canton Youth Symphony.
Since the late 1990’s, John Gordon Ross has served in a variety of roles as an adjunct faculty member at Lenoir-Rhyne University, including portions of two semesters where he served as guest conductor of their choral ensembles as a temporary replacement for Dr. Paul D. Weber. He also teaches the instrumental conducting course every other spring semester.
He is also still an active trombonist and has performed with the Lakeside Symphony Orchestra in Ohio every summer since 1978. In Hickory, he is a regular performer with the LRU concert band and the Hickory Jazz Orchestra. He is also in demand as a clinician having conducted several festival orchestras in Tennessee and North Carolina and adjudicated NCMEA orchestra festivals in both eastern and western districts. He has served as the clinician for the inaugural Cleveland County Honors Orchestra. He was elected to a third term on the board of directors of the Conductors Guild and has served as chair of their nominating committee.
John and his wife Sarah Rocco Ross (Sally) have been married for 35 years and are the proud owners of Gracie, a 14 year old cockapoo. Sally is the director of strings for the Hickory Public Schools and associate principal cellist of the Western Piedmont Symphony and Salisbury Symphony Orchestra. The city of Hickory honored their musical accomplishments with a John and Sally Ross day on November 21, 2010.