Jan 18 - 20, 2019

Dawn Upshaw & Xian Zhang

2019 Winter Festival: Music Speaks

Concert Information

NJSO Accent Events

Music and Wellness – Fri, Jan 18, at 7 pm and Sun, Jan 20, after the concert
Join NJSO musicians who perform in hospital settings through the Orchestra’s Music and Wellness Program, as well as special guests, for a discussion about healing and the arts.

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About the Artists


Xian Zhang’s contract as Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has been extended until the 2023–24 season, to include the Orchestra’s 100th anniversary in 2022. Of her final concerts in 2017–18, conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, NJ.com wrote: “From the opening bars, Zhang imbued the work with majesty, creating the alpine atmospherics that the score calls for. The off-stage horns sounded perfect and the deep pull of Mahler’s music was in full effect. Zhang made the swooping waltzes of the second movement come to life and gave the bluesy, jazzy third movement an elegant light touch. The final movement was big and bold; the horns stood up in the grand finale and made beautiful, clarion sounds. The brass section of the NJSO has never sounded better. The NJPAC audience was on its feet at the end. This is now Zhang’s orchestra – how far can she take it between now and 2024?”

In September 2016, Zhang assumed the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, becoming the first female conductor to hold a titled role with a BBC orchestra. Her 2018–19 BBC NOW season includes her first international tour with the orchestra to China. The visit is supported by British Council China and forms part of their Inspiring Women in the Arts campaign.

Zhang also holds the post of Conductor Emeritus of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, following completion of her tenure as Music Director from 2009–16.

Last season included return visits to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Belgique, Orquesta Nacional de España, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, San Francisco Symphony and NAC Orchestra, Ottawa. 2018–19 sees her debuts with Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, Sydney Symphony, and the orchestra of Royal Stockholm Opera. Zhang is invited regularly to the London Symphony and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras; recent highlights include her debut with The Cleveland Orchestra and a gala concert with Renée Fleming and the China NCPA Orchestra.

Equally in demand on the opera podium, she conducted a successful production of Nabucco with Welsh National Opera in June 2014 that subsequently transferred to Savonlinna, where she returned for Otello in 2016. Other notable opera engagements include La Traviata with Den Norske Opera in January 2016 and La bohème with English National Opera in October 2015. She will make her Santa Fe Opera debut in 2020.

Zhang is a regular conductor in her native China, where she works with, amongs others, NCPA Orchestra, China Philharmonic and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra. A champion of Chinese composers, she has conducted Chen Yi’s Ge Xu (Antiphony) with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the NJSO, Qigang Chen’s Er Huang with China NCPA Orchestra and Iris Dévoilée with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Proms and China NCPA Orchestra. She conducted the world premiere of Qigang Chen’s Luan Tan with the Hong Kong Philharmonic in 2015.

Working with young musicians plays a major part in Zhang’s life. She held the position of Artistic Director of the NJO Dutch Orchestra and Ensemble Academy from 2010 to 2015, and in summer 2015 she made her hugely successful debut with the European Union Youth Orchestra, conducting them in Grafenegg, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rheingau and Bolzano. She conducted the Italian Youth Orchestra in a program of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov in August 2017 and returned to Aspen Music Festival in August 2018.

Born in Dandong, China, Zhang made her professional debut conducting Le nozze di Figaro at the Central Opera House in Beijing at the age of 20. She trained at Beijing’s Central Conservatory, earning both her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees, and served one year on its conducting faculty before moving to the United States in 1998. She was appointed as the New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor in 2002, subsequently becoming their Associate Conductor and the first holder of the Arturo Toscanini Chair.



Joining a rare natural warmth with a fierce commitment to the transforming communicative power of music, Dawn Upshaw has achieved worldwide celebrity as a singer of opera and concert repertoire ranging from the sacred works of Bach to the freshest sounds of today. In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, the first vocal artist to be awarded the five-year “genius” prize.

Her acclaimed performances on the opera stage comprise the great Mozart roles as well as works by Stravinsky, Poulenc and Messiaen. She has performed from Salzburg, Paris and Glyndebourne to the Metropolitan Opera, where she has made nearly 300 appearances.

In her work as a recitalist, and particularly in her work with composers, Upshaw has become a generative force in concert music. From Carnegie Hall to large and small venues throughout the world, she regularly presents programs composed of lieder, contemporary works in many languages and folk and popular music. She furthers this work in masterclasses and workshops with young singers and is the artistic director of the Vocal Arts Program at Bard College Conservatory of Music and the head of the Vocal Arts Program at the Tanglewood Music Center.

A five-time Grammy Award winner, Upshaw is featured on more than 50 recordings, including the million-selling Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Gorecki for Nonesuch Records. Her most recent Grammy was the 2014 Best Classical Vocal Solo Grammy for Maria Schneider’s Winter Morning Walks on the ArtistShare Label.

Upshaw holds honorary doctorate degrees from Yale, Manhattan School of Music, The Juilliard School, Allegheny College and Illinois Wesleyan University. She began her career as a 1984 winner of the Young Concert Artists Auditions and the 1985 Walter W. Naumburg Competition, and she was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Young Artists Development Program.



Bassist/composer Jay Anderson is among the most versatile and respected jazz artists performing today. He has performed and recorded with a wide range of jazz artists including Woody Herman, Carmen McRae, Michael Brecker, Paul Bley, Bob Mintzer, John Abercrombie, Dave Liebman, Joe Sample, Maria Schneider, Stanley Cowell, John Scofield, Lee Konitz, Vic Juris, Red Rodney, Ira Sullivan, Mike Stern, Anat Cohen, Toots Thielemans, Kenny Wheeler, Jay Clayton and non-jazz artists like Oswaldo Golijov, Dawn Upshaw, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Robert Spano, Michael Franks, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Terre Roche, Chaka Khan, Michel Legrand, Allen Ginsberg and Celine Dion. He is a professor of jazz bass studies at the Manhattan School of Music and currently co-leads the critically acclaimed group BANN.



Pianist/composer/educator Frank Kimbrough has been active on New York’s jazz scene for more than 35 years. His most recent CD release is Monk’s Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk, a six-CD set on Sunnyside Records, featuring Scott Robinson, Rufus Reid and Billy Drummond. Kimbrough has worked closely with Maria Schneider since 1993, holding the piano chair in the Maria Schneider Orchestra, playing on her recording and tours of Winter Morning Walks and her collaboration with David Bowie. He has served on the faculty of The Juilliard School’s Jazz Studies Program since 2008.



Scott Robinson and his unusual reed and brass instruments have been heard throughout 55 nations and 250 recordings with a cross-section of jazz greats representing nearly every imaginable style of the music, including Bob Brookmeyer, Tom Harrell, Frank Wess, Maria Schneider, Anthony Braxton, Joe Lovano, Ron Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Ruby Braff and Roscoe Mitchell. Primarily a tenor saxophonist, Robinson once placed directly below the great Sonny Rollins in the DownBeat Readers Poll. As a composer, his works range from solo performance pieces to chamber and symphonic works; he releases highly adventurous music on his ScienSonic Laboratories label.


The January 19 concert is generously sponsored by Northern Trust.