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Jack Fortner

Fresno, CA   

Jack Fortner, Orpheus’ Artistic Director is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. His first musical interest was jazz and he began his career touring the US playing saxophone in a jazz band. His interests gradually shifted to classical music and he began his study of composition in New York in 1960 with Hall Overton of the Juilliard School of Music.


 He has received numerous awards and commissions for his works, including the 1966 International Composition Prize from the Fondation Royaumont of France, the 1967 Rome Prize Fellowship awarded by the American Academy in Rome, a NEA grant in 1978 to compose the dance piece, Found Objects, and grants from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation. Several of his compositions have been released commercially by New Ariel Recordings, Capstone Records, Vienna Modern Masters, Quindecim, and Stradivarius labels.


 Recent works include Windsong for piano and wind quartet; Frammento Cantando for oboe solo; and Trilogy: Gleiche Stimmen (Guitar and cello), Equal Voices (violin and guitar) and Voci Eguali (piano and percussion) and a solo piano piece Retrato de Malintzín. Traces for orchestra, composed in 2012, was premiered by the Orquestra Sinfónica de Campinas, Brazil on September 25 2013 with the composer conducting. In December 2009, he completed a chamber opera NOTHING and more commissioned by El Cimarrón Ensemble of Salzburg that was premiered on March 15 2014 in Fresno. The European premiere of this work took place in Hallein, Austria on June 17, 2014. In 2011 he composed Currents of Time for large orchestra that will be premiered in California by the CSUF Symphony Orchestrain spring of 2015. Fortner’s music is published in Europe by Editions Jobert, Paris and in the United States by Theodore Presser Company, Philadelphia.


 He is the Artistic Director of Orpheus an innovative chamber ensemble based in Fresno, California.   He has also served as music director of the Merced Symphony from (1971-1976) and made guest appearances throughout California, Washington, and Utah. Before his arrival in California, he had served as Music Director of the Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra (Grand Rapids MI), Assistant Conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony, conductor of the Contemporary Directions Ensemble at the University of Michigan, and guest conducted the Detroit Symphony. In Fall 1993, he was a guest conductor in Germany and Romania, performing his own music with the renowned Ars Nova Ensemble during the Cluj Musical Autumn. In the summer of 1996 he recorded his Symphonies with the State Philharmonic Orchestra of Transylvania, and Trois Gymnopédies with the Ars Nova ensemble. In February 1997, he appeared as guest conductor with the Slovak Sinfonietta of Zilina performing the music of Dvorak, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn. He returned to Cluj-Napoca in April 1997 for the Romanian premiere of Symphonies at the final concert of the Cluj Moderne Festival.


 Since 2000, Fortner has conducted widely in Latin America. He was a guest conductor for the opening orchestra concert of the Festival de Música Nova in São Paulo, Brazil in August 2000 and in September 2001 Fortner was the guest conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Guanjuato (Mexico) presenting a concert that included his Quadri and music of Mozart and Dvorak. On June 2004, he conducted the Orquesta Sinfónica de Asunción, Paraguay and made an appearance in Buenos Aires. In 2007, 2008, and 2013 Fortner was a guest conductor in the Festival de Música Nova in Salvador, Bahia. He was appointed the conductor of Ensemble Música Nova in 2004 and has performed annually during the Festival Música Nova in São Paulo since that time.


In July and August 2010 he was the artistic director and conductor for the production of a CD of music by the renowned Brazilian composer Gilberto Mendes. This was nominated for the Prêmio Bravo as the best classical CD of 2010. (The Prêmio Bravo is the Brazilian equivalent of the Grammie Awards in the US.)  In 2015, he will be the artistic director and conductor of a 2CD album produced by the label Selo SESC that will chronicle the history of Festival Música Nova in Brazil.