James Lowe (Music Director)

James Lowe is a versatile conductor and pianist who has performed across North America and Europe in virtually every musical style, ranging from classical music and opera to the avant-garde; from musical theater and jazz to rock, blues, and country. He is currently the music director and conductor for the US National Tour of Cameron Mackintosh and Trevor Nunn’s acclaimed West End production of My Fair Lady, and recently conducted the First National Tour of Adam Guettel’s Tony-Award winning musical, The Light in the Piazza. For several seasons he was associate conductor at Houston Grand Opera, where he conducted and orchestrated a portion of the 50th Anniversary Gala concert with Sir Elton John. He conducted the 2003 world premiere and the 2004 revival of The Little Prince, an opera by Academy Award-winning composer Rachel Portman. At HGO, he has also led Carmen, Le nozze di Figaro, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair, and the HGO Studio production of Copland’s The Tender Land. With Lyric Opera San Diego, he has led Don Pasquale, La Rondine, Countess Maritza, Oliver!, and Britten’s realization of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. Active as a guest conductor, this season he makes his debut with Pittsburgh Opera with Jonathon Dove’s Flight. With the Wolf Trap Opera he led the acclaimed production of Sweeney Todd, and has conducted the Houston Symphony (concerts with Randy Newman), Houston Ballet (The Nutcracker), Dayton Opera (Le nozze di Figaro), and Wichita Grand Opera (The Mikado). In June of 2004, Mr. Lowe conducted Mark Adamo’s Little Women for Lyric Opera Cleveland, in a production directed by the composer. He conducted and stage directed a production of Madama Butterfly with Houston’s OrchestraX, prompting the Houston Chronicle to write “…Lowe and his players proved again that the foundation for all great opera lies in the orchestra…the passion detailed by Puccini asserted its magnetic strength one more time...sweepingly intense storytelling.”

For three seasons Mr. Lowe was musical director and conductor of Blackfriars Theater in Rochester, NY, leading productions of Funny Girl; Falsettos; Merrily We Roll Along; Oh, Coward; and The Rink. He has been resident conductor at the Ash Lawn Highland Opera Festival in Charlottesville, VA, where he conducted La Traviata, La Cenerentola, Die Fledermaus, and Kiss Me, Kate. He appears as pianist on Houston Grand Opera’s world premiere recordings of Mark Adamo’s Little Women, Carlisle Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree and Tod Machover’s Resurrection. Mr. Lowe served as cover conductor and principal coach on the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata in Houston and the revival at New York City Opera.

As a pianist, Mr. Lowe has made solo appearances with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, and has given recitals at the Aspen Music Festival, the Chautauqua Institute, and the University of Colorado Artsweek Festival in Boulder. In addition, he was featured on the television program “A.M. Buffalo” and has competed in such prestigious events as the GPA Dublin International Piano Competition in Ireland and the Esther Honens International Piano Competition in Calgary. Mr. Lowe has been praised for his “revelatory” programs (The San Antonio Express-News), often including premieres, rare and experimental pieces, transcriptions of rock music, and even audience participation. Mr. Lowe is active as a vocal recital accompanist, and has served as a coach/accompanist at Santa Fe Opera, where he appeared onstage as the Tavern Pianist in Wozzeck, and at the Virginia Opera. He recently toured Germany with the vocal group Hudson Shad.

Besides the piano, Mr. Lowe has played guitar and bass guitar in several bands, performing music ranging from jazz to country. For five years, he was the keyboardist, rhythm guitarist, lead singer, and songwriter for the rock band Backwash, recording and touring the Eastern US. Mr. Lowe coproduced the band’s first compact disc, Goin’ to the Mall, released in 1995 on Transit Records.

Mr. Lowe holds a BM degree from the Eastman School of Music and a MM degree from the University of Michigan. He spent four summers studying at the Aspen Music School and the Aspen Opera Theater Center. He studied piano with such prominent teachers as Nelita True, Nina Lelchuk, Robert Spillman, Charles Fisher, and Joseph Werner and conducting with Larry Rachleff and Patrick Summers. In 1994-95 he served as affiliate artist at Syracuse University, teaching keyboard literature and piano.