John Devlin, Conductor


Music for Our Moment

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Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte
Evan Meier/Christylez Bacon: Migrations in Rhythm: A Concerto for Beatbox and Rhyme        Dmitry Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5

Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte is a Haydn-inspired strings-rich piece that will pull you in. It’s what critic James Bennett called “juicy and ebullient…culminating with a succession of full-bellied chords that I may one day make my ringtone.”

Washington DC native and Duke Ellington School for the Arts alum beatboxer Christylez Bacon has created something totally new with this intersection of symphonic and hip hop tradition. You may have seen this Grammy nominee onstage with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center. He says, “The music is the lure and the lyric is the education that will destroy the many barriers that prevent us from recognizing our connections with each other.”

Soviet composer Dmitry Shostakovich premiered his fifth symphony in 1937 to overwhelming acclaim, with the audience standing to applaud for more than 40 minutes. This darkly dramatic work is the best one to start with if you’re experiencing Shosty (as musicians have nick-named him) for the first time. A simple internet search will reveal more details of the political turmoil surrounding Shostakovich’s previous compositions and the safety he reclaimed after writing this symphony, so do yourself a favor and dig in to what it was like to be an artist in 1930s Leningrad.

Conductor John Devlin is an energetic force in the classical music world. He is an innovator of concert design, an ardent champion of American music, and a proponent of cross-genre collaborations. Currently the Music Director of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, Devlin is only the ninth conductor in its 90-year history to hold that title. He is thrilled to be visiting Greenville this week, and looks forward to meeting the community and to working with the GSO for the first time.

Devlin’s artistry and versatility make him a sought-after guest conductor with major orchestras across the nation. His engagements include performances with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony, the Omaha Symphony, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, the Sarasota Orchestra, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, and the American Repertory Ballet. Of his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra and violin soloist Joshua Bell, Anne Midgette of The Washington Post wrote that Devlin “led the evening with flair … and was visibly in his element.”

A strong advocate for American music, Devlin has made it a programmatic focus, and has premiered over 40 new American works. His artistic partnerships with contemporary American composers include a decade-long relationship with Eric Nathan, from whom he has commissioned works that he performed at Carnegie Hall and with the National Symphony Orchestra. Devlin has also premiered works by Adolphus Hailstork, Leanna Primiani, Michael-Thomas Foumai, Enrico Lopez-Yañez, Michael Ellis Ingram, Evan Meier, Alexandra Bryant, Nathan Strasser, Tomek Regulski, Daniel Houglum, Timothy Brady, Matthew Levine, Christopher Caliendo, Liza Kravinsky, and David Matthews.

John Gennaro Devlin is an American conductor of Italian and Irish heritage. He completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in orchestral conducting under the tutelage of James Ross at the University of Maryland. His undergraduate degree is from Emory University, where he graduated summa cum laude with a double major in Clarinet Performance and Latin. As a young professional, Devlin was on the conducting staffs of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. While a student, he benefitted enormously from his time as a member of the New York Youth Symphony, at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, and at the Pierre Monteux School. His professional career has been shaped by his time as an assistant to conductors Gianandrea Noseda, Christoph Eschenbach, Rossen Milanov, and Victoria Gau.

View John Devlin’s Website

Christylez Bacon (pronounced: chris-styles) is a Grammy Nominated Progressive Hip-Hop artist and multi-instrumentalist from Southeast, Washington, DC. As a performer, Christylez multi-tasks between various instruments such as the West African djembe drum, acoustic guitar, and the human beat-box (oral percussion), all while continuing the oral tradition of storytelling through his lyrics.

With a mission towards cultural acceptance and unification through music, Christylez is constantly pushing the envelope – from performances at the National Cathedral, to becoming the first Hip-Hop artist to be featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, composing and performing with the National Symphony Orchestra and Princeton Symphony Orchestra on multiple occasions, collaborating with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and creating an intentional culture exchange project and subsequent documentary between Washington, DC and Brasilía, Brazil.

In Washington, DC, Christylez began a cross-cultural collaborative concert series, “Washington Sound Museum” (WSM). WSM is a monthly intimate celebration of music featuring guest artists from diverse musical genres with Christylez Bacon and his progressive hip-hop orchestra. Since WSM’s inception, Christylez has collaborated with artists from various cultural backgrounds, ranging from the Hindustani & Carnatic music of India, the contemporary Arabic music of Egypt, and the music of Brazil. At the beginning for the pandemic, Christylez saw this socially-distant period as an opportunity to bring international artists and audiences together in an online video series titled, Beatbox Remix Series, which can be seen on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook Watch.

View Christylez Website


Want to get to know the conductor and learn about the music before you experience it? Join John Devlin and Greenville Symphony Executive Director Jessica Satava for a pre-concert chat about the program.

This concert is complete. Don't wait to secure your seats for next season!