Conductor and Member Biographies
Kirk Muspratt, Artistic Director and Conductor
Kirk Muspratt (Artistic Director/Conductor) was recently named a “Chicagoan of the Year” by music critic John von Rhein and the writing staff of the Chicago Tribune. In honoring Kirk, von Rhein said, “Ask the delighted adults and kids who flocked to his concerts…with the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra…They will tell you he made concertgoing an interactive experience that was both enlightening and – are you ready? – fun.” Recognized as one of the outstanding figures in the new generation of conductors, Kirk Muspratt has garnered international critical acclaim and was hailed as a “born opera conductor” (Rheinische Post) and “a knowledgeable musician who delivers superbly controlled, gorgeously shaped readings” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), and the Los Angeles Times declared “Watch him!”
Kirk begins his 16th highly acclaimed season as Music Director of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. In his first 15 seasons, he has instituted several highly commended programs that include a popular Solo Competition for Children that results in a child performing at almost every Northwest Indiana Symphony concert. He has also implemented an Orchestral Fellowship Program with Valparaiso University and his vision was instrumental in founding the South Shore Summer Music Festival.
One of his most highly praised new projects at NISO has been the innovative collaborations with the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists. Together they have presented La Traviata, Die Fledermaus, Carmen and La Boheme.
In order to involve the community to the maximum, Kirk has created “Just Ask Kirk™” cards for audience members’ questions, “Interactive Intermissions” and “Cookies with Kirk” for patrons and musicians of the orchestra, chorus and youth orchestra to meet, and a “Kirkature™” cartoon to help advocate the credo: “Symphonic music is for everyone.” Kirk also writes monthly columns in two local newspapers during the concert season.
In July 2004, Kirk Muspratt was named both Artistic Director of New Philharmonic and Artistic Director/Music Director of DuPage Opera Theatre. In 2011, New Philharmonic was awarded “Professional Orchestra of the Year” by the Illinois Council of Orchestras. In his first 9 seasons, productions at the DuPage Opera Theater featured repertoire including Faust, Otello, Tosca, Turandot, and Carmen. Repertoire at the New Philharmonic was equally adventurous, including the world premieres of the Stybr Variations for Contrabassoon and Orchestra, Taylor Firefly Orrery and Lofstrom Oboe and Harp Concertinos.
In his first months at the New Philharmonic, Kirk instituted a Side-by-Side program for local high school students and an Interactive Intermission Project involving both the musicians of the orchestra, opera and the patrons.
From 1991 through 1996, Kirk served as Resident Conductor to Lorin Maazel at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Prior to this, he was appointed as Associate Conductor to Joseph Silverstein at the Utah Symphony Orchestra (1990-1992). From 1987 through 1990, Kirk served both as Assistant Conductor to Leonard Slatkin at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as well as Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. He was Music Director of the Alberta Ballet from 1997 through 1999. At the New York Philharmonic, Muspratt has served as a Cover Conductor.
In addition to his work in Pittsburgh, Utah and St. Louis, Kirk has guest conducted the orchestras of Los Angeles, Montreal, London, Korean Broadcast Symphony, Detroit, Rochester, National Arts Center, Vancouver, Knoxville, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Victoria, New Orleans, Stamford, Binghamton, South Bend, Lafayette, Puchon, Annapolis,Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and Baltimore Chamber Symphony.
Summer debuts have included the Tanglewood, Chautauqua and Sewanee Music Festivals. He has also conducted at the Banff Center for Performing Arts.
In Europe, Kirk was Assistant Conductor in the opera houses of Monchengladbach/Krefeld, Germany, from 1985 to 1987. His American opera conducting debut came with the Utah Opera in 1991. He returned there to premiere Mascagni’s L’Amico Fritz. Maestro Muspratt has conducted Die Fledermaus for the Calgary Opera, Faust and Merry Widow for the Utah Opera, Of Mice and Men, Il Barbiere di Siviglia for the Arizona Opera and Amahl and The Night Visitors at the Opera Illinois all to stunning critical acclaim.
In 1983 and 1984, Kirk was invited to be a scholarship student at the Chautauqua Institute and in 1986 was selected as a Conducting Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival. A year later, he was invited into the Conducting Program at the Tanglewood Festival. In 1988, he was chosen to be one of three Conducting Fellows for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute at the Hollywood Bowl.
As a teacher, Muspratt has taught at the Conductors’ Institute of the University of South Carolina, the Conductors’ Guild National Workshops, Association of Canadian Orchestras National Conference in Toronto, the Conductors’ Studio at Illinois State University and at Westminster Choir College in Princeton. During the summer, he has taught graduate conducting classes at VanderCook College of Music, at the Northwestern University seminar for singers, and most recently at the SAI National Convention in St. Louis. Muspratt recently completed six-year tenure on the Board of Directors of the Conductors’ Guild.
Having always enjoyed working with young people, he has conducted the Pennsylvania Regional Orchestra and the Pennsylvania All-State Orchestra. He has conducted the Boston University Tanglewood Orchestra at the Tanglewood Festival.
Kirk has been the recipient of numerous awards, among them grants from the Canada Council and the Presser Foundation. In 1983 and again in 1984, he was winner of the Strauss Conducting Prize while a conducting student at the Vienna Conservatory. During his tenure in Utah, he received the first Utah Up’n Comers Award ever given to a classical musician. This honor was awarded to Kirk for his work and involvement in the Utah Arts Community. In 1987, he was named winner of the prestigious Exxon/Affiliate Artists Award. Kirk was named a “Professional to Watch” by the Times of Northwest Indiana in 2013.
In 2006, Kirk was initiated as a National Arts Associate with the Lake County Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity. He is the first such Distinguished Member in Northwest Indiana. A National Arts Associate is a man or woman who is nationally recognized for distinguished contribution to the arts. He joins the likes of other SAI National Arts Associates such as Van Cliburn, Keith Lockhart, Henry Mancini, and Wynton Marsalis.
He is a native of Crows Nest Pass, Alberta, Canada. His early training was as a pianist. After leaving
Alberta, he studied in St. Louis and New York with Harold Zabrack. Kirk continued in both a bachelor’s and master’s performance program at Temple University with Adele Marcus and Alexander Fiorillo. Subsequent to this he went on to study conducting at the Vienna Conservatory of Music. Kirk became a citizen of the United States in November, 2010.
Michele Lekas, Concertmaster
Ms. Lekas received her Bachelorʼs and Masterʼs Degree from the Quebec Conservatory of Music in her native Canada, and later studied in the United States with Jaime Laredo, David Cerone and Sally Thomas. She has played in master classes for Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Henryk Szeryng, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, and Joseph Silverstein. Ms. Lekas was a member of the Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec, the chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy (Quebec), and the Camerata Lysy Gstaad (Switzerland). She was also Associate Concertmaster of the New American Chamber Orchestra (based in Spain) and toured with the orchestra in Europe for a year, prior to moving to the United States.
Ms. Lekas is currently concertmaster of the Northwest Indiana Symphony, the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, and the New Philharmonic Orchestra, and is a substitute musician with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She often appears as soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. Ms. Lekas has recorded for CLAVES with the New American Chamber Orchestra, for Warner Brothers and NAXOS with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, and with Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In addition to her classical repertoire, Ms. Lekas works in recording studios, and often performs for Broadway in Chicago productions.
Carolyn May, Principal Flute
Carolyn May has been the principal flutist in New Philharmonic since its inception in 1977. She has soloed with the orchestra on Mozart, Nielsen, and Ibert concertos in addition to several of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. When Carolyn joined the orchestra, she had recently married, lived in Bensenville, and taught elementary and junior high band in Park Ridge. In the thirty-some years that followed, she has been balancing performances with child rearing (she and her husband Dave had three sons), teaching flute lessons at College of DuPage and at her studio in LaGrange, receiving her Master’s Degree from Northwestern University, and returning to band directing in School District 102 (LaGrange, LaGrange Park, and Brookfield).
Ms. May recounts, “I remember the day I auditioned for New Philharmonic like it was yesterday. My appointment was on a Friday at 5:30 PM with Harold Bauer, the founding conductor of New Phil. I was delayed in traffic on Roosevelt Road—fortunately, Harold waited for me to arrive, and I’m so glad he did! To this day, I treasure playing in New Philharmonic and have only missed one concert in thirty seven years due to the birth of a child. I never take my position for granted.”