Roger Kalia, Music Director
A dynamic and innovative presence both on and off the podium, Indian American conductor Roger Kalia is a respected collaborator with orchestras and artists alike, known for his eloquent and compelling interpretations, and for bringing a “fresh view to classical music.” Newly named Music Director of Indiana’s 87-year-old Evansville Philharmonic, he will begin his tenure in fall 2020. Kalia currently also serves as Music Director of New Hampshire’s 97-year-old orchestra, Symphony NH (Symphony New Hampshire), of California’s Orchestra Santa Monica and Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as Music Director and co-founder of the celebrated Lake George Music Festival in upstate New York, which celebrates its tenth anniversary in August 2020. Having worked with California’s Pacific Symphony since the 2015-16 season, Kalia concludes his service with the 40-year-old orchestra in August 2020, having served a three-year tenure as the orchestra’s Assistant Conductor before being promoted in 2019 to Associate Conductor.
Highlights of Kalia’s 2019-20 season include two orchestra premieres with Symphony NH: American composer Chris Rogerson’s Luminosity and Jacobson / Aghaei's Ascending Bird; and with Orchestra Santa Monica a collaboration with pianist / composer Murray Hidary in a unique, multi-sensory concert. He leads Pacific Symphony’s first-ever Dia de los Muertos concerts featuring a variety of groups from around the community, and also a reprise of the successful 2018 benefit concert “From Classical to Rock,” featuring John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, Nancy Wilson of Heart, singer / television personality Randy Jackson, and Madonna’s long-time guitarist Monte Pittman with musicians from the China Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing, China.
2019-20 guest engagements include debuts with Ohio’s Lima Symphony and Indiana’s Evansville Philharmonic. Two guest conducting invitations have been postponed to a future date: a return to conduct Poland’s Szczecin Philharmonic in a subscription series concert and leading the Orange County Steinway Academy Rising Stars Piano Competition. Summer 2020 engagements include a four-concert tour of the Czech Republic and Austria with the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra featuring performances in Prague’s Smetana Hall and Vienna’s Musikverein, a “Symphony in the Cities” concert with Pacific Symphony, leading the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra in the Grand Finals of the Redlands Bowl Young Artists Concerto Competition, and the tenth anniversary of the Lake George Music Festival.
Recent guest engagements include the symphony orchestras of Bakersfield, Spokane, Redlands and Wheeling, the Comarda Chamber Orchestra, and Poland’s Szczecin Philharmonic. Past season highlights include engagements with the National Symphony Orchestra at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Chicago Sinfonietta at Symphony Hall, the symphony orchestras of Long Beach, Adrian, Great Falls and Owensboro, and the Boise Philharmonic. With the Pacific Symphony and the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, Kalia toured China. He led the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra in the Orange County, California premiere of Austin Wintory’s Journey Suite, the first-ever Grammy-nominated video game score. With the Young Musicians Foundation (YMF) Debut Orchestra, Kalia led a production of Stravinsky’s Historic du Soldat with actors Jack Black and Michael Lerner at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and gave the Los Angeles orchestral premiere of Michael Giacchino’s Star Trek Into Darkness.
A versatile communicator, Kalia has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including singers Shayna Steele and Steve Lippia, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) duo MAKO, singer/songwriter Randy Newman, Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim, violinists Glenn Dicterow, Nikki and Timothy Chooi, and Sphinx Competition winner Annelle Gregory, percussionist Lisa Pegher, pianists Fei-Fei Dong and Misha Dichter, the B-52s, PROJECT Trio, the Brooklyn-based electronic Indie band Balún and visual artist and astronomer Dr. José Francisco Salgado.
Equally at home with modern repertoire as he is with popular warhorses, Roger Kalia is a passionate advocate of contemporary music, and has commissioned and/or programmed numerous works by some of today’s most exciting living American composers, including Paul Dooley, Reena Esmail, Brendan Faegre, Missy Mazzoli, Narong Prangcharoen, Sarah Snider, Harry Stafylakis, Austin Wintory, Michael Daugherty, and Paul Chihara. Most recently, Kalia led the U.S. premieres of Michael Murray’s Pilgrims and King David's Dance with musicians of Pacific Symphony and has commissioned and led several world and state premieres at Lake George Music Festival which are frequently broadcast on NPR’s Performance Today. They include Chris Rogerson’s Four Meditations for Orchestra, Sheridan Seyfried’s Double Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra, and the New York premiere of Paul Dooley’s Northern Lights.
Kalia is a staunch supporter of music education, and in addition to his responsibilities to the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, he has conducted numerous youth and collegiate orchestras, including the 2018 Missouri All-State Symphony Orchestra, The Colburn Orchestra, California State University Fullerton Symphony Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Irvine Seraphim Symphony. He has created family and educational concerts in a variety of concert formats, and has collaborated on the education platform with such renowned artists and ensembles as Cirque de la Symphony, Orange County’s Festival Ballet Theater, speed painter Dan Dunn, and the Magic Circle Mime Co. Furthermore, Kalia has also served as an instructor of conducting at USC’s Thornton School of Music.
A creator as well as a communicator, in 2011, Kalia and two of his colleagues co-founded the Lake George Music Festival, an original, ground-breaking, two-week, nationally recognized music festival that presents cutting-edge artists and composers performing classical and new music, traditional and experimental concerts and recitals of various sizes, open rehearsals, informational talks and a variety of community outreach programs. As Music Director, Kalia programs and conducts all orchestral and large ensemble concerts, including the popular “Sounds of Our Time,” series (which he created and curates) highlighting connections between popular and orchestral music though multimedia concert formats, as well as the festival’s Family Concert Series. In 2018, Kalia introduced the Symphony Happy Hour outreach program, which takes place in local breweries and bars.
A native of New York State, Roger Kalia holds degrees from Indiana University, the University of Houston and SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. His primary mentors include David Effron, Arthur Fagen, and Franz Anton Krager. Among his honors and awards are a 2019 Solti Foundation Elizabeth Buccheri Opera Residency with Lyric Opera of Chicago, assisting Sir Andrew Davis for Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, three Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awards, a Project Inclusion Conducting Freeman Fellowship with the Chicago Sinfonietta under Mei-Ann Chen, and an American Academy of Conducting Fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival with Robert Spano. In 2011, Kalia won Second Prize in the Memphis Symphony International Conducting Competition, which led to his debut with the orchestra the following season and launched his professional career. Kalia’s early posts were with the Young Musicians Foundation (YMF) Debut Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (IN). Kalia is married to musicologist / violinist Christine Wisch.