ISO announces Ken Lam as next music director

click to enlarge From attorney to orchestras – Ken Lam’s journey back to his first love
Photo courtesy of Ken Lam.

Following a two-year search and try-outs by four renowned conductors, the Illinois Symphony Orchestra announced today that Ken Lam will be its new music director.

Originally from Hong Kong, Lam left a career as an international corporate attorney to pursue his passion for music. He received unanimous support from ISO's board of directors and search committee, and he will begin on July 1.

“From a field of four world-class conductors, one has emerged who has excited our musicians, our audience and our board," said Roger Hunt, ISO board member and search committee co-chair. "We are pleased to welcome Maestro Ken Lam to lead the Illinois Symphony Orchestra as it begins its 25th anniversary season."

Lam is currently music director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina, resident conductor of the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina and artistic director of Hong Kong Voices. He says music - like any art form - is essentially about expression.

"What is unique about music is that there's a time element to it," he said. "Once you've done it, it's gone. It's all about sharing that moment; that creates the magic. ... Musicians through the centuries have expressed many different things, and we find such a wide range of emotions in music. In almost every word of a poem, you find expression, and music is not words, but in some ways, it can express so much more."

click to enlarge ISO announces Ken Lam as next music director
David Fitch
Lam directs the Illinois Symphony Orchestra during a performance in February. | Photo by David Fitch

Despite officially starting with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra in July, Lam is already hard at work planning. He explains that most orchestras are publishing their season of events by this point in the year, so he'll have to hit the ground running. And while Lam was impressed with the community support ISO enjoys, he says the first order of business for any new music director is cultivating relationships.

"I really just have to keep meeting people - opening up my eyes and ears, looking at what the community wants," he said. "One part of the search process was to meet a lot of the community - artists, educators, patrons. I think the opportunities are there for a lot of collaborations."

Amanda Pond, a search committee member and ISO flutist, said Lam was "a clear favorite with the orchestra."

“He brings enthusiasm, musical knowledge, conducting skill, and a friendly and engaging manner to the podium," Pond said. "The musicians thoroughly enjoyed our concerts with Ken this past season and are eager to begin our collaboration. We look forward to continuing to build on what we have achieved the past five years."


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