Conductor Ching-Chun Lai joins The Ohio State University to serve as visiting professor–interim orchestra conductor for 2018–19, beginning August 2018.
Dr. Lai has held the post of director of orchestras and associate professor of music (Conducting) at the Crane School of Music, State University of New York at Potsdam since 2011. During her tenure, the Crane Symphony Orchestra has advanced swiftly in both the quality of its performances and in its reputation, having performed in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. In 2014, the Crane Symphony Orchestra was invited to perform at the opening concert of the New York State School Music Association’s annual conference. In Potsdam (NY), Dr. Lai appears annually in Potsdam’s traditional holiday “Candlelight Concert,” broadcast nationally by PBS. And, as part of Crane’s educational mission, Dr. Lai and the orchestra tour regularly throughout the Northeastern United States.
Possessing a wide-ranging knowledge of repertoire, Dr. Lai has worked with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Buffalo Chamber Players, the Gstaad Festival Orchestra (Gstaad Menuhin Festival, Switzerland), Madison Bach Musicians, New Symphony Orchestra (Bulgaria), Richmond Symphony Orchestra and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. She has prepared the orchestra and served as assistant/cover conductor for Gunther Schuller and JoAnn Falletta, as well as Christof Perick, Larry Rachleff and Duain Wolfe in the Lougheed-Kofoed Festival of the Arts. Dr. Lai has also collaborated with renowned artists, such as the Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet, percussionist Aiyun Huang and violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins.
With her deep interest in opera and new music, Dr. Lai conducted the world premiere of Maura Bosch’s opera Art and Desire, a University of Wisconsin–Madison commission. She has also worked for opera productions of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande; Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, L’elisir d’amore and Maria Stuarda; Handel’s Alcina; Massenet’s Thaïs and Britten’s Turn of the Screw. In 2009, Dr. Lai conducted the Madison Bach Musicians in performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. A great success, the performances were described in Isthmus as “consistently excellent, from the opening triple-chorus to the final double chorus, while the harmonized chorales were soaring anthems of faith.” She has also served as resident conductor for the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble at University of Wisconsin–Madison, and was a founding member of the group, New Muse. With these dynamic musicians, Dr. Lai undertook several significant projects including fully-staged performances of Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies and performances of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.
Dr. Lai made her conducting debut at age 19 with Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University Wind Ensemble and was appointed conductor of that ensemble soon after her first engagement. During her tenure, this ensemble won music competitions in Taiwan, became one of the top university wind ensembles in the country, and was invited by the Asian Pacific Band Festival to perform in the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
A committed educator and experienced ensemble clinician, Dr. Lai has worked with numerous youth orchestras, school orchestras and university orchestras in Taiwan, Canada and the United States. Recently, she has conducted the Boston University Symphony Orchestra as well as several honors orchestras in New York State and Massachusetts, has given conducting master classes at National Chia-Yi University in Taiwan, and served as ensemble clinician in New York, Wisconsin and at the Kiwanis Music Festival in Canada. In 2015, Dr. Lai conducted a joint concert of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, performed in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater.
Dr. Lai twice received the Church Memorial Conducting Award from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, in recognition of emerging conductors who show great professional promise. She was recently granted a competitive research award, the Dr. Nuala McGann Drescher Leave Program sponsored by the State of New York / United University Professions Joint Labor-Management Affirmative Action / Diversity Committee. Her interdisciplinary projects at SUNY–Potsdam include a collaboration with trombonist Burt Mason for the Untold Legacies residency (a series of concerts and discussions about diversity in the classical music world) as well as the Bill Williams’ residency, Path to Optimal Performance (workshops about psychological impact and practice for performance and audition.)
A protégé of Gunther Schuller, Dr. Lai worked with the legendary maestro for over ten years. In addition, she studied with Neeme Jarvi and Johannes Schlaefli at the Gstaad Menuhin Festival and Academy in Switzerland, and participated in the Dallas Opera’s Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors. Master classes include work with Gustav Meier, JoAnn Falletta and Ken Kiesler. Dr. Lai holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Master of Music degrees in Conducting and Music Education with Distinction in Performance and Academic Honors from the New England Conservatory of Music. Dr. Lai also holds a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics and Aeronautics Engineering from the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. She was a faculty member (orchestra conductor) at Mount Holyoke College prior to her SUNY–Potsdam appointment.