A dynamic and passionate conductor, Steven Byess is recognized for his distinguished musicianship, passion for music education, commitment to outstanding educational programs, and innovative programming. He has been hailed by critics as "masterful and brilliant," "creating the epitome of instrumental elegance," "a talented interpreter, able to capture the sweep of a piece without neglecting detail," capturing "the full spirit and vitality of the score perfectly." He is the Music Director of the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, Associate Music Director of the Ohio Light Opera, Principal Guest Conductor of the Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra of Krakow, Poland, and formerly held the posts of Cover Conductor for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Conductor for the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Music Director of the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestras. With the Ohio Light Opera, he has conducted, to critical acclaim, over 450 performances of 50 diverse operas, operettas, and musical theater works, and is featured on fifteen CD recordings by Newport Classics, Albany Records, and Operetta Archives. Former posts also include Opera Conductor for the Cleveland Institute of Music (Ohio), Music Director of Opera for California State University – Los Angeles, and conducting faculty of the University of Michigan School of Music in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Mr. Byess conducted the U.S. premiere of Russian violinist Alexander Markov's Rock Concerto, and made his Carnegie Hall conducting debut leading the work in New York in October 2010. Mr. Byess has been a regular guest conductor at the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he has conducted productions of Puccini's La Bohéme and Robert Ward's The Crucible. He is also a frequent guest conductor at the Pine Mountain Music Festival in Michigan, where he recently conducted a new production of Le Tragédie de Carmen (Bizet/Brook). Previous productions at the festival include a critically acclaimed production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide with director Joshua Major and the composer's daughter Jamie Bernstein, and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte.
Mr. Byess received his Bachelor of Music Degree in classical performance and jazz studies from Georgia State University, and his Master of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied conducting with Louis Lane and Carl Topilow, bassoon with George Goslee and David McGill, violin with Carol Ruzicka, and piano with Olga Radosavljevich. He also attended the Pierre Monteux Memorial School for Conductors under the tutelage of Maître Charles Brück. In addition to his conducting studies with Louis Lane, Robert Shaw, and Carl Topilow, he has worked under the auspices of the League of American Orchestras with such noted conductors as Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, and Otto Werner Mueller. Mr. Byess was an assistant to conductor Robert Shaw at the Shaw Institute in Souilliac, France.
Steven Byess is a passionate advocate for the arts, much sought after for his speeches on the arts, music, music education and general education. An important community leader, he has created and organized frequent and annual collaborations with numerous choruses, chamber music ensembles, and festivals of the arts. He also wrote, co-directed and is featured in a PBS presentation entitled Count On It!, which is designed for children grades K-3, and shows the correlation of music to mathematics. He is a conductor of the Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute Link Up orchestral education concerts, performing in multiple US communities for over 15,000 children in 2013.
Mr. Byess was chosen by Walt Disney World Entertainment to conduct the 2000 NFL E*TRADE® Superbowl Halftime show. The production had over 400 performers, including the Walt Disney World Millennium Orchestra, and international artists Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton, and Edward James Olmos, and was broadcast to over 900 million viewers worldwide.
Guest engagements for 2013-2014 include The Florida Orchestra, the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra, an eighth tour of the US with the Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra (Krakow, Poland), the New Mexico All-State Orchestra, the Northeast Mississippi Honor Band, and opera productions of Falstaff (Verdi), L'incoronazione di Poppea (Monteverdi), Der Kleine König (Kàlmàn), Die Fledermaus (Strauss), Oh Lady! Lady!! (Jerome Kern), Dream City and the Magic Knight (Victor Herbert), Call Me Madam (Irving Berlin), and Amahl and the Night Visitors (Menotti).