In 2021, Kelly Kuo was named Associate Artistic Director of American Lyric Theatre and Music Director of the Reno Chamber Orchestra while continuing his duties as Artistic Director of the Oregon Mozart Players. A native of the Pacific Northwest, raised in the region’s watermelon capital, Hermiston, Oregon, he is a proud product of the private teachers in the community and the music programs offered in the public schools. Primarily a pianist by training, Kuo’s introduction to conducting came via a crash course at the Houston Grand Opera Studio, after which he caught the conducting “bug” and didn’t look back.
Praised by the Cincinnati Enquirer as “a leader of exceptional musical gifts, who has a clear technique on the podium and an impressive rapport with audiences,” Maestro Kuo has gained a reputation for exceptionally creative programming as well as consummate musicianship, having “transformed this chamber group into...a band of professional, enthusiastic, and superior musicians, playing confidently as one unit" (The Register Guard). With a diverse repertoire that includes nearly 100 operas, his recent highlights include concerts with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, and Lexington Philharmonic and productions with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, and the Brevard Music Center.
Maestro Kuo, the eldest son born to Taiwanese immigrants, became the first conductor of Asian descent to lead a performance at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, making his company debut with Porgy and Bess in 2008. He has since returned to lead the Chicago premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird and performances featuring artists of the Ryan Opera Center. Upcoming engagements include a return to Opera Columbus and his debut with the Merola Opera Program, and New Orleans Opera.
In addition to his demanding performance schedule, Kelly Kuo is a strong advocate for music education, having initiated and developed important mentoring programs that continue to influence the lives and careers of young artists. To forge partnerships in Eugene between the organization and the community, he launched a Young Soloist Competition, nurtured an annual side-by-side collaboration with the Eugene Springfield Youth Orchestras, and introduced an Assistant Conductor position with connections to the University of Oregon. During his seven-year tenure as Music Director and Conductor of the Butler Opera Center at The University of Texas at Austin, he served as interim director of the New Music Ensemble and oversaw the expansion of the first doctorate program for opera coaching in the United States. In addition, his service on grant panels for OPERA America and the National Endowment for the Arts focusing on the creation and support of new works further evidences his dedication to giving voice to the next generation of artists.
Kelly resides in Cincinnati and continues to concertize as the only pianist to have studied with two pupils of the Russian virtuoso, Vladimir Horowitz. He and his wife Kim are empty nesters with twin boys in college. In their free time, they enjoy traveling, cooking, and spending time with their dog Kiwi.
“The young maestro’s casual, self-effacing manner (on and off the podium) belies rock solid musicianship, not to mention a total dedication to eliciting the best sound from what should be his orchestra."
- Scene and Heard International
"Kuo’s audience rapport, programming acumen, and ability to attract outstanding soloists have earned him the admiration of those on and off stage.”
- The Register Guard
WEBSITE // kellykuo.com