Rock Hill Symphony names new music director and conductor

Rock Hill Symphony announced today that Christopher James Lees is its newly-appointed music director and conductor.

Lees, an emerging American conductor, is said to bring passionate and nuanced orchestral performances to the stage, a fierce commitment to contemporary music and a natural charisma to audiences all around the world. He will assume artistic leadership of the Rock Hill Symphony immediately, while remaining in his role as resident conductor for the Charlotte Symphony, an appointment he began in 2018.

“We are elated to be able to hire someone with the breadth of experience Mr. Lees has,” said Sarah Lynn Hayes, president of the Rock Hill Symphony, in a news release.

“Mr. Lees has conducted symphonies all over the world with engagements that have taken him to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orchestra de Chambre de Paris, Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, and the Music in the Mountains Festival & Festival Internacional de Inverno de Campos do Jordão in Brazil.

“We are delighted to introduce him to our esteemed patrons and sponsors who have supported us so graciously throughout this process,” Hayes said.

An active guest conductor, Lees has performed a variety of programs with major American orchestras, from the New York Philharmonic to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well with the Houston, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Fort Worth and New World symphonies. Only the second American Gustavo Dudamel Conducting Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lees is also a winner of the James Conlon Conducting Prize and the Aspen Conducting Prize from the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Lees is also an active pianist, and has considerable experience conducting operas. He has premiered more than 150 new works by a diverse range of composers, and collaborated closely with Pulitzer Prize-winning composers John Adams, William Bolcom, John Corigliano,
Jennifer Higdon, Joseph Schwantner, Steven Stucky, Caroline Shaw, Roger Reynolds, and Julia Wolfe.

The Washington native holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan. His musical education has also included close study with luminary conductors Robert Spano, Michael Tilson Thomas, Lorin Maazel and Larry Rachleff.

The Rock Hill Symphony plans to introduce Lees to Rock Hill and other communities it serves during his guest appearance at its Overture Gala on Thursday, March 23 at the Center for the Arts.

About the Rock Hill Symphony

Founded in 2017, the Rock Hill Symphony was established by a group of musicians and local supporters with the mission to inspire, engage, and enrich the lives of community members with the transformative power of symphonic music. Serving all of York County and beyond, the Rock Hill Symphony stands today as a fully professional orchestra featuring some of the most talented players throughout the region committed to excellence in live performances, educational programs and community activities. Visit for more information.

Disclosure: Sarah Lynn Hayes is an appointed commissioner serving on the board of the South Carolina Arts Commission.