March 18, 2017
Luther Memorial Church
225 W 10th St


Rated #1 by the Chicago Sun-Times for “Chicago’s best classical music/opera moments of 2013,” Leslie B. Dunner’s conducted South Shore Opera Company’s fall production of William Grant Still’s opera “Troubled Island.” It was described as “The most history-making event of the year.” In 2014, he joined their Board of Director. Other engagements included South Africa’s annual “Starlight Pop Opera” concert with the Kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic and the South Shore Opera Company’s annual spring opera program. He conducted Opera Ebony’s spring 2013 tribute to Verdi with scenes from “Rigoletto” and “La Traviata” in New York City, the Opera /Ballet Gala performance of “Carmen” in Guadalajara, Mexico during the Opening Ceremonies for the 2011 International Pan American Games, and Opera Africa’s 2007 production of Mziliazi Khumalo’s opera “Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu” at Den Norske Opera in Oslo, Norway.

In 2014, Dunner conducted the American Opera Projects’ world premiere of Nkeiru Okoye’s opera, “Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line To Freedom” in New York City. He also returned to the Orlando Philharmonic, conducting their spring 2014 Super Series Program, “Music of the Ballet.” In 2014-15, Dunner returned to the South Shore Opera Company for operatic and concert performances as Music Director, conducted a subscription week with the Orlando Philharmonic, returned to Opera Ebony to conduct their production of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte”, and debuted with “Skylight Music Theatre of Milwaukee,” conducting 42 performances of The Royal Shakespeare Company’s version of Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz.”

Dr. Dunner’s guest conducting has included appearances with virtually every major U.S. orchestra. He has worked with orchestras in Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Estonia, South Africa, Italy, and Spain. Ballet engagements have included The American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, the Washington, Orlando and Madison Ballets, London’s Royal Ballet at Covent Garden and The Birmingham Royal Ballet (in London and on tour throughout England), Michigan Opera Theatre, and The South African Ballet Theatre.

In 2011, Dr. Dunner was Interim Music Director for the Orquesta Filarmonica de Jalisco, Mexico. Previously, he worked with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for 11 seasons as Resident, Associate and Assistant Conductor respectively. He was Music Director of Canada’s Symphony Nova Scotia From 1996-1999, and Music Director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra until 2003. He helped reinvigorate that institution, bringing national recognition for high artistic achievement, broad programming, a composer-in-residence initiative, and innovative educational experiences. From 2003-2009, Maestro Dunner was Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, conducting nationally and internationally to critical acclaim.

From 1994 through 2001, Dr. Dunner was an assistant conductor to Kurt Masur with the New York Philharmonic. He accompanied them on their 1995 10-city European tour as Assistant Conductor. As Principal Conductor for The Dance Theatre of Harlem, he conducted numerous international performances, including a gala performance for Diana, Princess of Wales during their 1988 UK tour, Austria’s Salzburg Festival, Denmark’s Tivoli Festival, the former Soviet Union, and on the troupe’s historic 1992 tour to South Africa, performing for Nelson Mandela. With DTH he was also music advisor for several European television productions.

Maestro Dunner has served on the Advisory Boards of World Artist Experience in Annapolis and Opera Vista in Houston. He judged for The International Jordania Conducting Competition where in the Ukraine in 2003 he was the first and to date only multiple prizewinner claiming all: the orchestra favorite, audience favorite, and founder’s favorite prizes. He has received awards, honors, commendations and proclamations including the “Distinguished Achievement” and “James Weldon Johnson” awards from the NAACP, the “Distinguished Young Alumnus Award” from Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, and the “Charles Stone Award” from the National Association of Negro Musicians. In Detroit, he received the “Man of the Year” and “Spirit of Detroit” awards from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. Dr. Dunner was the first co-winner of the Colorado Philharmonic National Conducting Competition and the first American prize-winner of the prestigious Arturo Toscanini International Conducting Competition. He was also chosen for the American Symphony Orchestra League’s “Leonard Bernstein American Conductors’ Program.” His Proclamations are from New York, Michigan and Maryland.

Leslie B. Dunner is a clarinetist and composer, having played in the USA and Canada. His compositions have been successfully performed throughout the USA and abroad. His large scale work, The Whirligigs of Time: Twelfth Night Suite for mezzo-soprano, chorus and orchestra, was premiered by the Prince George’s Philharmonic in March 2006. His “Motherless Child Songs,” recorded by the Minnesota Composers Forum, is available on the Innova label. His recording “Magical, Mystical Mouse” with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra (music from animated films), is available on the Pro Arte label. His live-recording performance of Alvin Singleton’s “BluesKonzert” with pianist Ursula Oppens and the DSO is available on the Chandos label, released to critical acclaim on the album “Ellington and the Great Masters.” His two most recent recordings with the Center For Black Music Research, ‘The African Diaspora:’ “Five Movements in Color” by Mary Watkins and the groundbreaking “Symphony in E minor” and “Piano Concerto in One Movement” by Florence Price are available from Albany records.

Dr. Dunner plans to play principal clarinet for the North Riverside Players’ production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” this season as well as conduct the South Shore Opera of Chicago’s performances of Nkeiru Okoye’s opera, “Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line To Freedom.”


Sphinx Competition
2016 Senior Division 1st Place Laureate and winner of Robert Frederick Smith Prize

THOMAS MESA is a soloist, chamber musician, and teacher in New York City. As the cellist in St. Petersburg Piano Quartet, he has played sold out concerts at Barge Music, Doheny and Kohl Mansions. He has toured with Itzhak Perlman both nationally and internationally and has collaborated artists such as Roger Tapping, Andres Diaz, Barry Shiffman, Miguel da Silva, and Paul Katz. Additional collaborations have been as soloist with The Crossing Choir (Margaret Hillis Award winner in 2015) in venues around NYC and Philadelphia, most notably at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the U.S. Premiere of “Astralis” by Wolfgang Rihm for solo cello and choir. He has performed either in ensemble or as soloist in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, WMP Music Hall, Arsht Center in Miami, Sandler Center in Virginia, Jordan Hall, and on PBS’s From the Top.
Thomas’ orchestral experience includes being principal cellist for Northwestern Symphony Orchestra and the Juilliard Orchestra. He has performed under the batons of James Levine, Tan Dun, David Afkham, Alan Gilbert, James Conlon, Nicholas McGegan, Ludovic Morlot, Franz Welser-Most, Joel Sachs, Benjamin Zander, Victor Yampolsky, Donald Nally, and Timothy J. Robblee.

Last month, Thomas was a semi-finalist at Naumburg International Cello Competition and has won first place in the Thaviu Competition for String Performance in Chicago, first place in Alhambra Orchestra Concerto Competition, and was the recipient of the Ray Millette Young Artist’s Award, Certificate of Merit in Music from the City of Miami, and received an Outstanding Musicianship award from New World Symphony. He has attended summer festivals and institutes that include the Perlman Chamber Workshop (with additional residencies in Stowe, Vermont), Heifetz International Music Institute, Banff Masterclasses, Kronberg Academy, Royal Danish Academy Masterclasses, and Kneisel Hall.

As a passionate teacher, Thomas is currently on faculty at Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, St. Petersburg International Music Academy, was the teaching assistant to Hans Jensen at Meadowmount School of music for two years, and has a private teaching studio in New York City where he currently resides.

Thomas began his musical studies on cello at the age of eleven and is a graduate of The Juilliard School (B.M. 2012); and Northwestern University (M.M. 2014) where he was the recipient of the Richard and Helen Thomas Fellowship and Graduate Program Honors for extraordinary contributions to the String Department. Currently, Thomas is a D.M.A candidate at Manhattan School of Music where he studies with Julia Lichten. His principal teachers have been Hans Jorgen Jensen, Timothy Eddy, Mark Churchill, Ross Harbaugh, and Wells Cunningham.

Thomas currently plays on a cello made by Richard Tobin in 1826.