Richard Prior, Music Director and Conductor

richard_prior_portrait_smallerAward-winning conductor and acclaimed composer Richard Prior holds the Edward Goodwin Scruggs Conducting Chair at Emory University. As Director of Orchestral Studies he conducts both the Emory University Symphony Orchestra and Emory Youth Symphony Orchestra in addition to being the senior lecturer in composition. Prior was Music Director and Conductor of the Rome Symphony Orchestra from 2008-14, holding the Georgia Power Conducting Chair; in July of 2014, he was appointed Music Director and Conductor of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.

With a rich family heritage that includes a prominent figure in mid twentieth-century British conducting, a founding member of the English Opera Group with Benjamin Britten and composer/ jazz saxophone legend, Tim Garland, Richard Prior’s career has encapsulated the hallmarks of other distinguished family members. His musical training began in his native England, where he received degrees in composition and conducting from Leeds and Nottingham Universities. He has taught at several universities and colleges in the United States and at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University where he was the 1997 Visiting Fellow-in-Music.

As a guest conductor, Prior has led performances with members of the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Houston Symphony, Montreal Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra. Internationally, he has also appeared with the National Symphony of Ukraine, the Odessa Philharmonic, the Cairo National Symphony and in the USA, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, the New Orleans Civic Symphony, the Rome Symphony Orchestra and most recently the LaGrange Symphony. Prior has worked with a range of distinguished soloists including sopranos Silvia McNair and Yulia Van Doren, cellist Matt Haimovitz, violinists David Kim, Katherine Wolfe and Sinisa Ciric, pianists William Ransom and James Swisher, oboist Joseph Robinson, clarinetist Ashraf Attalla, jazz saxophonist, Victor Goines and vocal sensation, Janelle Monae. With a strong background in choral music, Prior is a genuinely versatile conductor who can draw together the forces for not only opera but also standard major repertoire including Beethoven Symphony No. 9, Mozart Requiem (most recently with the ATL Symphony Musicians and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus), Haydn Creation, Orff Carmina Burana, Handel Messiah, Faure Requiem in addition to contemporary works.

Reviews in the professional press cite his “stirring conviction,” “precision,” and “stylishness and flexibility,” with the noted “meteoric rise” of ensembles under his direction. Prior’s mentors and principal teachers include Sir Simon Rattle, James Paul and William LaRue Jones. Prior is a founding member and past president of the College Orchestra Directors Association (South Central Division); he served on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Arts and Cultural Assessment Committee and is past-President of the 501c(3) ReStringHaiti organization dedicated to restoring and expanding music education and performance opportunities to Haiti.

From works written as a child and presented in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II to his professional debut in 1988 at London’s Westminster Abbey, Richard Prior’s music has been performed, recorded, and broadcast widely in Europe and North America. Recent premieres have included String Quartets No. 1 and 2 with the Vega Quartet, The Darkening Land with clarinet virtuoso Richard Stoltzman and the Pulitzer-nominated choral-orchestral work Stabat Mater, the subject of a 2009 PBS broadcast. Prior’s composition teachers and mentors include Alan Ridout, Philip Wilby, James Fulkerson, Nigel Osborne and Trevor Wishart. He has been a selected participant in workshops and master classes with a diverse array of composers including Pierre Boulez, Henryk Gorecki, John McCabe and Milton Babbitt.

Matt Haimovitz premiered Prior’s cello concerto in October 2014 in a performance conducted by the composer and said of the work “Richard’s music embraces a soaring lyricism, cinematic in scope with a rich sense of orchestral colors. The cello writing is wonderfully idiomatic, deeply satisfying for the cellist to play and interact with the orchestra. This new concerto is a major contribution to the cello repertoire.”

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Robert Spano commissioned …of shadow and light… (incantations for orchestra)which premiered in October, 2013. Subsequent critical review called the work “forbidding and dramatic”, “stunning” and “jubilant and exuberant”; the piece identified Prior as “perhaps the most gifted of the Atlanta composers” citing his mastery of orchestration, lyricism and musical drama.

The ASO went on to present three performances of his Symphony No. 3 in November 2014 under the direction of Robert Spano, a work also featured at the finale of Northwestern University’s 2013-2014 Season with Victor Yampolsky and the season finale of the Cairo Symphony in Egypt with the composer conducting. Reviews and commentary from the Chicago/Midwest premiere called Prior “a symphonic sorcerer” and “one of the most bad-ass composers of all time”.

Richard wrote us a fantastic piece last season, and, as with many of our family of composers, we wanted to follow up this season with more of his music. His music is so powerful, dramatic and colorful, that it has an immediate impact. But living with it over time, it grows deeper and richer.” Robert Spano quoted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Reviews in Atlanta called the work “a major new symphony”, “always engaging and the soundscape is constantly changing” and the long-time Atlanta Journal Constitution critic James Paulk said “…it’s the best new work I’ve heard here. Prior is rapidly becoming Atlanta’s preeminent composer”. Atlanta music critic William Ford wrote “This is a major work that is a triumph of integration, emotion, flow and orchestration. It should be heard and the ASO should record it.”

A winner of numerous awards for his compositions and conducting, Prior received the 2008 Harvey Philips Award for Excellence in Composition at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, the 2009 Emory University Winship Senior Faculty Award and the 2011 Crystal Apple Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. His choral-orchestral work hymn for nations united received Awards of Merit in two categories (Symphonic Music and Composition) in the 2013 Global Music Awards. Current projects include works for the ASO’s Principal Oboist, Elizabeth Koch Tiscione, a third string quartet, a flute concerto, a violin concerto and a work for flute and harp.

Students of Prior have gone on to successfully complete undergraduate and graduate programs at UC Boulder, Michigan, Northwestern, Columbia, Rice, Oberlin, MIT, Indiana, CIM, CCM and the Royal College of Music (UK).

Paul Bhasin, Conductor

bhasin_2015-sqConductor Paul Bhasin serves on the faculty of Emory University as Director of Wind Studies. In this capacity, he conducts the Emory Wind Ensemble, directs all aspects of Emory’s wind, brass, and percussion program, and teaches conducting.

Praised for his “crisp, clear” conducting and  “highly expressive” interpretations, Bhasin has led a variety of university and professional ensembles throughout North America and abroad including recent performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and throughout the People’s Republic of China. Ensemble
s under his direction have collaborated with soloists from the San Francisco Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Virginia Symphony, and the US Marine Band. Bhasin’s recent guest engagements include appearances with the Interlochen Arts Academy Concert Band, Virginia Symphony Orchestra Brass and Percussion, American Youth Philharmonic, and with the Washington Symphonic Brass (DC).  He has served as Assistant Conductor of the Williamsburg Symphony (an orchestra composed of Richmond and Virginia Symphony members) and Music Director of the Williamsburg Youth Orchestras. He is in demand as a guest conductor and adjudicator and was recently invited to present at the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic (in collaboration with the U.S. Marine Band), the College Band Director’s National Association Southern Division Conference, and the Music Teachers National Association Conference.

Bhasin’s articles and reviews have been published in the Instrumentalist and the International Trumpet Guild Journal. His pedagogical trumpet text is published by BRASSJAR Music. His transcriptions and arrangements are published by Balquhidder Music and have been performed and commissioned in the US and abroad by the United States Marine Band, St. Louis Opera Theater, the United States Air Force Brass in Blue, Grand Tetons Festival Orchestra, La Unió Musical l’Horta de Sant Marcel·lí (Valencia, Spain) and the Washington Symphonic Brass (DC).  In 2015, Bhasin composed and conducted the score to 9:23 Films’ motion picture, Hogtown (official selection, Berlin and Calgary International Film Festivals, and Cannes Festival Marché du Film).  Michael Phillips of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the film was “…scored beautifully by composer Paul Bhasin…better than the entirety of the last few features I’ve seen, period.”

Bhasin is an accomplished orchestral trumpeter, having performed with the Virginia Symphony and Opera, Columbus (OH) Symphony, New World Symphony, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and at the music festivals of Aspen, Tanglewood, and Ravinia. With these institutions he has performed under the batons of David Zinman, Michael Tilson Thomas, James Conlon, James DePriest, Leonard Slatkin, Andreas Delfs, and Gustav Meier. A committed trumpet teacher, his students have attended prestigious conservatories and music schools and have won first prize at major competitions including the 2014 National Trumpet Competition. He has been featured as a trumpet soloist on National Public Radio, Detroit PBS-TV, the International Computer Music Conference, at the Chautauqua Music Festival, and at the International Dvořák Festival (Prague, CZ). Bhasin has recorded as trumpeter and conductor for both the Centaur and Interscope record labels,and his 2015 Centaur Records release features the music of Brian Hulse and is performed by principals from the Richmond and Virginia Symphonies as well as the College of William & Mary Wind Ensemble.

Bhasin’s previous appointments include positions at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Triton College, and The College of William & Mary.  He received his musical education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (DMA, conducting), Northwestern University (MM, trumpet), and the University of Michigan (BM, trumpet),  and performed as a member of the University of Michigan Symphony Band under H. Robert Reynolds, and the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble under Mallory Thompson. His primary teachers were Scott Teeple (conducting), Charles Geyer (trumpet), and Charles Daval (trumpet). He is a member of the College Band Director’s National Association, Georgia Music Educators Association, and the League of American Orchestras.