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Conductor and cellist Thomas Fortner was most recently Assistant Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra. As the Founder and Artistic Director of the Iowa Great Lakes Music Festival, he partnered with local performing arts presenters to bring world class musical performances to the Iowa Great Lakes region. As a Graduate Assistant Conductor at the Peabody Conservatory, he led concerts of the Peabody Symphony and Conductors Orchestra during the 2016-2017 season.
In 2016, Fortner served as the assistant conductor for the Martha Graham Dance Company at the Library of Congress during their revival of the original Ballet to Copland’s Appalachian Spring. As cover conductor for the Concert Artists of Baltimore, he served under Maestro Ed Polochick.
A committed educator, Fortner has taught for the Baltimore Symphony “OrchKids” and the Bridges Academy programs, which provide at-risk youth with free music lessons.
Fortner was a member of the final class selected by the late Gustav Meier to attend the Peabody Conservatory, where he studied with Marin Alsop and Markand Thakar, completing his Graduate Performance Diploma in conducting in 2017. Additionally, Fortner completed a Bachelors and Masters of cello performance at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He has performed chamber music alongside musicians from orchestras such as the Houston Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Minnesota Orchestra. A native of Houston, Texas, Fortner has enjoyed visiting his family in the Iowa Great Lakes since childhood.
Jeff Paul, principal oboist with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, grew up in Southern California where he gained experience and expertise in various forms of performing arts. He was an aspiring concert pianist by the age of ten and was awarded opportunities to perform piano concerti with the Conejo Youth Symphony and the Pepperdine University Orchestra. Jeff attended the Eastman School of Music (BM with performer’s certificate, 1999) and the University of Southern California (MM, 2003) for oboe performance. His primary teachers include Richard Killmer, David Weiss, and Allan Vogel. He has performed as a soloist with the New West Symphony, Heidelberg Castle Festival Orchestra, Conejo Concerto Orchestra, and the South Dakota Symphony and has substituted with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and San Diego Symphony.
One of Jeff’s primary interests has been traditional folk music of various cultures. He enjoys working closely with The New Porcupine Singers and improvising alongside Lebanese oud player Simon Shaheen.
In composition, Jeff has received awards from the Young Composer’s Guild of the Music Teachers Association of California, resulting in several premiers of his chamber and orchestral music. He has also received commissions from various organizations, including the South Dakota Symphony and the Young Artists Ensemble theater group in California. He composes regularly for the Dakota Wind Quintet.
Jeff has recorded for various projects, including a Warner Bros. film scoring session, a hip-hop orchestra, aspiring jazz/rock/fusion bands, and a spattering of independent short films.