Michael Lewanski - Conductor

Photo: Drew Reynolds

Photo: Drew Reynolds

"Lewanski, who is an excellent conductor, maintained a level of structural expertise that once more gave a listener faith in the music."
-- Mark Swed, L.A. Times

“The performances... conducted by Michael Lewanski, sounded fresh, vital and committed, the many moving parts synchronized with amazing precision.”
-- John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

"The gatherings and vanishings of this reflection on life and dust... were precisely charted by the conductor Michael Lewanski."
-- David Allen, New York Times

“The work was held together by the remarkably detailed conducting of Michael Lewanski, who pointed out the rhythmic and emotive extremes with clarity and precision.”
-- Gerard Fischer, Chicago Classical Review

Conductor, educator, and writer Michael Lewanski is a champion of contemporary music and older repertoire alike.  His work seeks to create deeper and more engaged connections between audiences, musicians, and the music that is part of their culture and history.  He is conductor of Ensemble Dal Niente and has been on the faculty of the DePaul University School of Music since 2007, where he conducts the Concert Orchestra, Ensemble 20+ (20th century and contemporary music), and works frequently with other ensembles. 

Michael’s recent guest conducting has included collaborations with Lyric Opera of Chicago (the world premiere performances of a new work), chamber ensembles from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the Spektral Quartet, the Fifth House Ensemble, the Rembrandt Chamber Players, the Detroit Symphony Civic Youth Orchestra, Mocrep, and the Anaphora Ensemble.  He has led over 100 world premieres. He served as the Conducting Assistant of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago from 2010 to 2014.  His recordings include works by George Lewis, Franco Donatoni, Dai Fujikura, Marcos Balter, Kurt Westerberg, Aaron Einbond, Kyong-Mee Choi, Janice Misurell-Mitchell, Katherine Young, and Ileana Perez Velazquez. He has acted as producer for recordings by Ensemble Dal Niente, Spektral Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, violinist J. Austin Wulliman, and saxophonist Ryan Muncy.

A native of Savannah, Georgia, he made his conducting debut at age 13 with the Savannah Symphony Orchestra.  At 16, he was the youngest student ever accepted into the conducting class of the legendary Ilya Musin at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia.  Michael attended Yale University, where his studies included conducting with Lawrence Leighton Smith and piano with Sara Laimon. He was music director of the Yale Bach Society Orchestra and conductor of the Yale College Opera Company.  His post-Yale education featured conducting study with Cliff Colnot and Dutch new music expert Lucas Vis.

Michael was an organizer of There is No Repetition: Mathias Spahlinger at 70 in March 2015.  Other recent festival appearances, in addition to the 2012 and 2014 Darmstadt Summer Courses, include the Ear Taxi Festival (2016), the 2015 Foro Internacional de Música Nueva in Mexico City, the 2013 Ecstatic Music Festival (in which Dal Niente collaborated with the rockband Deerhoof), the 2013 Bowling Green New Music Festival, the 2014 Northwestern New Music Conference, the 2015 Omaha Under the Radar Festival, the 2010 and 2012 Chicago Youth in Music Festivals, the 2010 Unbound Festival of American Chamber Music, the 2011 Unruly Music Festival, the 2012 and 2013 International Beethoven Festivals, the 2013 and 2015 MusicArte Festivals in Panama. 

Michael has held an appointment as conductor of the Columbia College Chicago-sponsored Columbia Community Symphony Orchestra.  He has been an assistant conductor of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. He was formerly music director of the Skokie Concert Choir.  He has collaborated with stage director Paul Koch on a number of nontraditional productions of Baroque opera. As a pianist and harpsichordist, he has appeared throughout the Chicago area accompanying singers and instrumentalists. Michael is also an active writer, chamber music coach, arranger, and conducting teacher.  As an educator of pre-collegiate students, he has worked with the Chicago Academy for the Arts and the Elgin Youth Symphony.

Michael has written on music extensively for outlets such as New Music Box, Cacophony Magazine, WQXR, Ensemble Dal Niente, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and on his own blog.

Michael’s schedule for the 2016-2017 concert season includes concerts with DePaul School of Music Ensembles, Ensemble Dal Niente’s 11th season (including its Chicago concert series and appearances around the US), return engagements with conducting the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, guest conducting, recording projects, festival appearances, and academic presentations.