Hello and welcome! I'm Michael Lewanski. I'm a Georgia-born, Chicago-based conductor, writer, and educator. I advocate for both old and new music alike. In my work, I seek to maximize interpretative engagement and deepen connections between audiences, musicians, and the music that is part of their culture, history, and psychology. I am the conductor of Ensemble Dal Niente, associate professor of Instrumental Ensembles at the DePaul University School of Music, a frequent guest conductor, and a writer. More detailed/official-sounding information about me is below.
"Lewanski, who is an excellent conductor, maintained a level of structural expertise that once more gave a listener faith in the music."
- Mark Swed, L.A. Times
"The gatherings and vanishings of this reflection on life and dust... were precisely charted by the conductor Michael Lewanski."
- David Allen, New York Times
"The performances... conducted by Michael Lewanski, sounded fresh, vital and committed, the many moving parts synchronized with amazing precision."
- John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
"The work was held together by the remarkably detailed conducting of Michael Lewanski, who pointed out the rhythmic and emotive extremes with clarity and precision."
- Gerard Fischer, Chicago Classical Review
"In his introduction, Lewanski talked about the work’s structure and expressed his deep enthusiasm for the piece, which was palpable in the ensuing string septet performance, the clear highlight of the evening."
- John Lawrence, Chicago Classical Review
"Some had robust sections that evoked a movie soundtrack; some had passages of great tenderness... [one] seemed to give voice to mathematical formulae. The pieces required the orchestra to articulate serpentine rhythms with the utmost precision. A couple pieces had the musicians making up some sounds on the spot... The orchestra, conducted by Michael Lewanski, handled it all with aplomb."
- David Dupont, Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune
"Michael Lewanski... conducted Saturday’s performance, expertly balancing the outbursts of raw, rasping cello and growling winds. The musicians played with the alert wariness of endangered animals."
- Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Classical Review
“The orchestral narrative was rich and aggressive but varied with lyrical interludes and instrumental solo extensions which were again under the firm control of Lewanski. The conductor kept lines clear and allowed the work to express emotions from the disturbing to the conversational, ending in a comforting decay as the final gesture.”
- Gerard Fischer, Chicago Classical Review
- With Darcy Heinrichs in DePaul Newsline, here.
- With composer/writer Jon Fielder for Klang, here.
- With Doyle Armbrust here (originally published in Crain's Chicago Business)
- With composer/writer Ray Evanoff of Foci Arts, here.
Official long-form biography:
Conductor, educator, and writer Michael Lewanski is champion of contemporary music and standard repertoire alike. His work seeks to create deeper and more engaged connections between audiences, musicians, and the music that is part of their culture, history, and psychology. Michael is conductor and artistic coordinator of the internationally acclaimed Chicago-based new music group Ensemble Dal Niente. He is Associate Professor of Instrumental Ensembles at the DePaul University School of Music where he has served in some capacity since 2008. He is the conductor of the DePaul Concert Orchestra, Ensemble 20+ (20th and 21st century music). Under his direction, Ensemble Dal Niente became the became the first ensemble to be awarded the prestigious Kranichstein Music Prize at the 2012 Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music.
Michael’s guest conducting has included collaborations with Lyric Opera of Chicago (the world premiere performances of a new work), chamber ensembles from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Chicago Chamber Musicians, Spektral Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, the National Symphony Orchestra of Turkmenistan, the Detroit Symphony Civic Youth Orchestra, Mocrep, and many others. He has led hundreds of world premieres. He served as the Conducting Assistant of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago from 2010 to 2014. His recordings include works by George Lewis, Franco Donatoni, Dai Fujikura, Lei Liang, Kurt Westerberg, Eliza Brown, Aaron Einbond, Kyong-Mee Choi, Janice Misurell-Mitchell, Katherine Young, and Ileana Perez Velazquez. He has acted as producer for recordings by Ensemble Dal Niente, Spektral Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, violinist J. Austin Wulliman, and saxophonist Ryan Muncy.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, he made his conducting debut at age 13 with the Savannah Symphony Orchestra. At 16, he was the youngest student ever accepted into the conducting class of the legendary Ilya Musin at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia. Michael attended Yale University, where his studies included conducting with Lawrence Leighton Smith and piano with Sara Laimon. He was music director of the Yale Bach Society Orchestra and conductor of the Yale College Opera Company. His post-Yale education featured conducting study with Cliff Colnot and Dutch new music expert Lucas Vis.
Michael assisted in the organization of There is No Repetition: Mathias Spahlinger at 70 in March 2015. Other recent festival appearances include soundSCAPE (2017), June in Buffalo (2016-17), the Ear Taxi Festival (2016), the 2016 New Music Gathering (Baltimore), 2015 Foro Internacional de Música Nueva in Mexico City, the 2013 Ecstatic Music Festival (in which Dal Niente collaborated with the rockband Deerhoof), the 2013 Bowling Green New Music Festival, the 2014 and 2015 Northwestern New Music Conference, the 2015 Omaha Under the Radar Festival, and the 2013 and 2015 MusicArte festival in Panama.
Michael has held an appointment as conductor of the Columbia College Chicago-sponsored Columbia Community Symphony Orchestra. He was an assistant conductor of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. He was formerly music director of the Skokie Concert Choir. He has collaborated with stage director Paul Koch on a number of nontraditional productions of Baroque opera. As a pianist and harpsichordist, he has appeared throughout the Chicago area accompanying singers and instrumentalists. Michael is also an active chamber music coach, arranger, and conducting teacher. As an educator of pre-collegiate students, he has worked with the Chicago Academy for the Arts and the Elgin Youth Symphony.
Michael is frequent writer on music and other artforms; his pieces have shown up in diverse and sometime unobvious locations, including New Music Box, Cacophony Magazine, WQXR.org, Ensemble Dal Niente's blog, and various program books.
Michael’s upcoming and recent schedule includes concerts with DePaul School of Music Ensembles, local and national concerts with Ensemble Dal Niente (Ear Taxi Festival, a California tour, a return to June in Buffalo, collaborations with the Art Institue of Chicago), a residency as conductor of the soundSCAPE festival (Italy), conducting/co-curating the Civic Orchestra of Chicago's composers project, and an engagement with the National Symphony Orchestra of Turkmenistan.
Conductor, educator, and writer Michael Lewanski is a champion of new music and older repertoire alike. His work seeks to create deeper and more engaged connections between audiences, musicians, and the music that is part of their culture, history, and psychology. Based in Chicago, he is conductor of Ensemble Dal Niente and associate professor of instrumental ensembles at the DePaul University School of Music. His recent guest-conducting has included work with Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, chamber ensembles from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Toledo Symphony, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Turkmenistan. Michael has an extensive discography as both conductor and producer with Ensemble Dal Niente, Spektral Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, Ensemble 20+, and others.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, he studied piano and violin in his youth; he made his conducting debut at age 13, leading his own composition. At 16, he was the youngest-ever student in the legendary Ilya Musin’s class at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He attended Yale University; he subsequently studied with Cliff Colnot and Lucas Vis.
Conductor, educator, writer Michael Lewanski is a champion of new and old music. His work seeks to deepen connections between audiences, musicians, and the music that is part of their culture and history. Based in Chicago, he is conductor of Ensemble Dal Niente and associate professor of instrumental ensembles at the DePaul University School of Music. He is a frequent guest conductor and recording artist. A native of Savannah, Georgia, he began conducting at 13. At 16, he studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with Ilya Musin. He attended Yale University; he subsequently studied with Cliff Colnot and Lucas Vis.