Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Dallas Festival of Modern Music, conductor Ryan Ross is also the Music Director of the Tyler (TX) Youth Orchestra, a post he has held since 2007. In this role, he leads the organization's flagship ensemble in several performances a year, including tours across Texas. Previously, Ross served as Cover Conductor for the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra and Graduate Assistant Conductor for the Texas Tech University orchestra program.
Although committed to the music of the masters of the past, Ross has a special affinity for contemporary literature, often reminding other artists that without support today, we could easily overlook and neglect our generation's Mozart. More importantly, he says, "I try to show that art music composed today is much more compatible with Rock&Roll and Hip-Hop tastes than people are generally aware. Our audience is generally more curious and more interested in hearing new sounds than your typical 'classical music' audience and we work hard to give them a unique experience." As a generally curious musician himself, Ryan Ross is actively involved with a number of contemporary music projects. A particularly exciting venture is his creation of the Tyler Youth Orchestra New Music Project, an annual composition contest and commissioning project designed to foster the creation of quality art music that is still technically accessible to young musicians. Ross has premiered music by David MacDonald, Kentaro Sato, and Alexander Campkin.
Ross holds degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Texas Tech University and has studied conducting with Gary Lewis, Donald Schleicher, Gustav Meier, Marin Alsop, Larry Rachleff, Christopher Zimmerman, and David Hoose.
Jordan Smith is a dynamic and energetic musician, known for his unwavering devotion to reaching people everywhere with the power of the music of our time. As a conductor, Smith is highly regarded for his innovative approaches to programming, his thoughtful interpretations, and for using his interpersonal skills to serve as an advocate for the music of the modern era. His programs have been well received; one reviewer wrote that, "Monday, Nov 9, evening's performance displayed [Smith's] full competence to deliver the rigors of this most varied and strenuous program." (Ft. Worth Examiner November 2009)
Regarding his passion for new music, Jordan is probably best understood in his own words. “Perhaps the best analogy would be that I try to serve as simply a translator between two different musical languages. I believe that it is my job to show people that there is much more to this music than meets the eye and that much of it is very comprehensible, and more importantly very enjoyable! Much of the time, it can be as simple as helping people to see the humor in a certain chord, or the optimism behind a certain musical gesture. His work has been much appreciated by important composers including 2010 Pulitzer Prize Winner Jennifer Higdon. Higdon said that Jordan's, "conducting is full of energy, and it really adds a lot to the performance. You can really sense that."
No stranger to the music of the great masters, Jordan Smith serves as Apprentice Conductor of the Dallas Bach Society Orchestra and Chorus, assisting Maestro James Richman in rehearsals and performances. About his work with classical music, Smith says, "I don't mean to shy away from older music, because I love it, it's actually at the core of what I do. But some times you want fine aged wine, and sometimes you want fresh grapes from the produce aisle. Musically speaking, we need more of both in Dallas.” In addition to his work in the public schools, he has also served as Assistant Conductor of the Cross Timbers Youth Orchestra, based in Allen, Texas, where he manifests his firm commitment to developing young musicians and inspiring children of all ages. Jordan contributes to music education on a national scale, as an adjudicator for the USSBA and having participated in conference calls with officials as far up as US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Jordan began his musical career as a percussionist and is still an active performer as soloist and chamber musician, also having performed with and for noted public figures such as Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, former Mayor Laura Miller, and retired General Norman Schwartzkopf, to name a few. As an advocate, Jordan has fought for arts funding on every front He also spends a great deal of time on the other side of the podium, both as a freelance percussionist and as a choral vocalist. Mr. Smith pursues post-graduate studies in orchestral and operatic conducting with Dr. Paul Phillips at Southern Methodist University and has formerly lead the Texas Tech Symphony Orchestra in numerous concerts as Graduate Assistant Conductor.