Lee Mills, Conductor


Through the Looking Glass


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Mary D. Watkins: Soul of Remembrance
Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No. 1 
Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 2

Philip Glass and Robert Schumann are composers separated by two centuries. One, an American from Baltimore whose music defies genre: it’s two parts driving rhythm and one part rich string texture. You could even say it’s got a hint of rock n’ roll. Add a true rockstar of the violin, the one and only Simone Porter, and the fear of missing out factor is on another level.

Robert Schumann, best friend of Johannes Brahms and husband of the legendary Clara Schumann was a musical celebrity in 19th century Germany who struggled with mental illness. He found relief and sanctuary in music and the result is some of the most complex and fascinating compositions of the German Romantic period. Despite the composer’s depression, this symphony cuts through the darkness and leaves us feeling hopeful and uplifted. This energetic and elegant second symphony turns the traditional structure on its head by opening with a quiet first movement. Don’t take it from us—come hear this revolutionary and redemptive work for yourself.

Five-time winner of the Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award, Lee Mills is internationally recognized as a passionate, multifaceted and energetic conductor. In naming Mills as the ‘New Artist of the Month’ for March 2022, Musical America praised Mills’ ‘omnivorous musical temperament eager to try out highly contrasting musical styles and approaches.’

During the pandemic, Mills was an invaluable asset to the Seattle Symphony, giving dozens of performances—including the 2020 Season Opening Gala on Seattle Symphony Live—and recording multiple albums with the orchestra. Mills also was the ‘hero of the hour’ (Seattle Times) when he stepped in at the last minute to replace Thomas Dausgaard for a performance of Hanna Lash’s world premiere double-harp concerto The Peril of Dreams and Amy Beach’s epic Gaelic Symphony in November 2021, about which Thomas May wrote in Musical America, ‘Mills emerged in his element here, showing an obvious fondness for this epic, unjustifiably neglected score. Along with a compelling dramatic arc, he elicited characterful playing for the many solos that enrich it.’

In the fall of 2022, Mills was the Solti Foundation U.S. Resident at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he worked with maestro Enrique Mazzola on the Lyric’s production of Verdi’s Don Carlos. The League of American Orchestras selected Mills for the 2018 Bruno Walter National Conductors Preview where he conducted the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he conducted alongside David Robertson in the highly acclaimed U.S. Premiere of John Cage’s Thirty Pieces for Five Orchestras with the Saint Louis Symphony.

Among other organization where Mills has conducted include the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Naples Philharmonic (Florida), National Symphony Orchestra (USA), the Rochester Philharmonic, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the San Antonio Symphony, the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra, and the Gran Teatro La Fenice (Venice, Italy). In 2014, Mills was the Assistant Conductor to David Robertson for Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the USA. 

Mills is passionate about sharing his love of classical music with others. While in Brazil, he led the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra in its new project, Musical Connections (Conexões Musicais), which brought orchestral music to over 200,000 members of the rural communites in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in its first two years. He also created a project, Vibe Sinfônica, which brings classical music to contrarian settings, and played for over 10,000 EDM fans at its debut.

View Lee Mills’ Website

Violinist Simone Porter has been recognized as an emerging artist of impassioned energy, interpretive integrity, and vibrant communication. In the past few years she has debuted with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and with a number of renowned conductors, including Stéphane Denève, Gustavo Dudamel, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Nicholas McGegan, Ludovic Morlot, and Donald Runnicles. Born in 1996, Simone made her professional solo debut at age 10 with the Seattle Symphony and her international debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London at age 13. In March 2015, Simone was named a recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant. 

With the cessation of live concerts Simone continued to record streamed events with Seattle, Pittsburgh, Charlotte and Greater Bridgeport Symphonies. 21/22 season included extensive US touring with debuts and return visits to orchestras such as Colorado, North Carolina, St. Louis, Grand Rapids, Omaha, Quebec, Princeton, Monterey, Bakersfield, Marin, Ridgefield and Wyoming symphonies, Erie Philharmonic and Florida Orchestra, as well as a Celebrity Series (Boston) recital debut which featured the world premiere of a commission from composer Reena Esmail. 22/23 season is starting with La Jolla and Peninsula Music Festivals, followed by orchestral performances in Winston-Salem, Virginia, Marin, Lexington, Modesto, New Haven, Bozeman, Portsmouth and Jacksonville. In recital, Simone can be heard in California, Florida, Spain as well as making her debut at 92NY. 

At the invitation of Esa-Pekka Salonen, Simone performed his work ‘Lachen verlernt’ (‘Laughing Unlearnt’), at the New York Philharmonic’s “Foreign Bodies,” a multi-sensory celebration of the work of the composer and conductor. In recent seasons, she has also appeared at the Edinburgh Festival performing Barber under the direction of Stéphane Denève, and at the Mostly Mozart Festival performing Mozart under Louis Langrée.  She has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl with both Nicholas McGegan and Ludovic Morlot, and at Walt Disney Concert Hall with Gustavo Dudamel. 

Internationally, Simone has performed with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra with  Gustavo Dudamel; the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira in Rio de Janeiro; the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica; the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong; the Royal Northern Sinfonia; the Milton Keynes City Orchestra in the United Kingdom; and the Opera de Marseilles.

Simone made her Carnegie Zankel Hall debut on the Emmy Award-winning TV show From the Top: Live from Carnegie Hall followed in November 2016 by her debut in Stern Auditorium. In June 2016, her featured performance of music from Schindler’s List with Maestro Gustavo Dudamel and members of the American Youth Symphony was broadcast nationally on the TNT Network as part of the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award: A Tribute to John Williams.

Raised in Seattle, Washington, Simone studied with Margaret Pressley as a recipient of the Dorothy Richard Starling Scholarship, and was then admitted into the studio of the renowned pedagogue Robert Lipsett, with whom she studied at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. Summer studies have included many years at the Aspen Music Festival, Indiana University’s Summer String Academy, and the Schlern International Music Festival in Italy.

Simone Porter performs on a 1740 Carlo Bergonzi violin made in Cremona Italy on generous loan from The Master’s University, Santa Clarita, California.

View Simone Porter’s Website


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

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