Rhonda Kess

Biography

 

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Rhonda Kess, a native of Los Angeles, received her Masters Degree from the USC School Of Music in Opera and Orchestral Conducting and went on to study contemporary music at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute. She also received an honorary degree in conducting, from the Mozarteum in Salzburg, after studying with the late Otmar Suttner, the Mozart opera specialist. . 

Rhonda also studied at Tanglewood, Loma Linda University, and the Aspen Music Festivals, with master teachers that included Leonard Bernstein, Herbert Blomstedt, and Andre Previn.

Rhonda Kess has championed British music in the United States and promoted American composers in the United Kingdom.  Along with her Los Angeles contemporary musical theatre company, The New Music Settings Ensemble, performing at Los Angeles venues that include Schoenberg Hall, Mount St Mary's, and The Bing Theater.  she has presented the American premieres of works by some of the last century’s leading British and Australian composers, including Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, John Tavener, Peter Sculthorpe, and Sir William Walton. 

In the States and in the UK, Miss Kess conducted premieres of works by Kurt Weill, including the British premieres of Johnny Johnson, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Royal Festival Hall, and Knickerbocker Holiday, with the English Chamber Orchestra, at the Barbicon Centre.

In 1988, Rhonda made her New York debut, as part of the first New York International Festival of the Arts, with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra in the East Coast premiere of Birtwistle’s opera ‘Punch and Judy’. 

Subsequently she has returned to New York as both stage director and guest conductor working with St Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, the Music Today Ensemble, Cleveland Chamber Orchestra and the St Paul’s Chamber Orchestra. 

While living in London Rhonda was appointed music director of ‘A Moveable Feast’ the contemporary music company of Trinity College of Music, in London.  The company presented British premieres of works by Michael Torke, Kurt Schwertsik, Kurt Weill, and John Harbison.  She resurrected ‘Therese’, the grand opera written by John Tavener for Covent Garden, and created a new arrangement for A Moveable Feast, which received critical acclaim in the UK, with excerpts from the production featured in the BBC award-winning documentary on the composer.

Rhonda became the first woman to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico City, with a programme of Prokofiev and contemporary Mexican composers.

When Rhonda returned to Los Angeles she became the Music Director of the LA based contemporary Music Theatre ensemble, The New Music Settings Ensemble. With her company Rhonda has received numerous awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California State Arts Council, for her pioneering productions in the field of contemporary Music Theatre and opera. Rhonda has worked on songs and musicals with British screenwriter and lyricist Kendrew Lascelles.  Their works for stage and film include 'N’Orlins Nights' and 'Bernadette'.

Collaborating with award-winning author Michael Weems, Kess and Weems are the musical-writing team behind the new musical 'OKAYBETTERBEST,' (OBB) based on the play written by Michael Weems in 2013, and produced in Houston in 2014. OBB has had two showcases in NYC, first at the Ars Nova Loft, directed by Tony-nominated actor Hunter Foster, and then at Feinstein's 54 Below, directed by Tony-nominated director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge. This 2017-18 season OKAYBETTERBEST will be featured in a full production at CalState Fullerton, as part of their New Musicals Series.

 

 
 

© Rhonda Kess

Updated August 2017