Scotland-based American conductor Kellen Gray has earned a reputation as a versatile and imaginative artist through his diverse array of traditional and experimental programming, thrilling performances, and provocative multimedia concert experience curation.
Kellen is the current Assistant Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (UK) and Associate Conductor of the Charleston Symphony (USA). Prior to his current appointments, Kellen completed respective tenures as Assistant Conductor of Chicago Sinfonietta and the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra.
The Scotsman gave Kellen’s Royal Scottish National Orchestra subscription debut 4-stars. Of the same performance, Vox Carnyx: Scotland’s Voice for Classical Music and Opera reported “he unfolded the smooth, mellifluous contours with patience and understanding.” Kellen’s 2022 debut album, African-American Voices with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Linn Records received 5-stars from Pizzicato; “Kellen pays attention to the minute details of Still's warm score, while he revels in the romantic outbursts and continual changes of pace that shake up Dawson's Negro Folk Symphony,” stated Musikzen.
Kellen is a native of South Carolina and credits the many folk music styles of the southeastern United States as his earliest and most impactful musical influences. Though most known for his mastery of the works that feature American folk idioms, his thrilling performances of other folk based composers such as Bartok, Dvorak, Copland, or Vaughan Williams roots from the same passionate pursuit of authenticity.
As a champion for African-diasporic composers, Kellen is the founder and curator of the Charleston Symphony’s Project Aurora, a programming and performance initiative aiming to illustrate the richness of African-American arts and culture as equally important to its European equivalent. His performances of William Dawson, William Grant Still, Coleridge Taylor Perkinson, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and George Walker have received critical acclaim. “Under Gray’s sure-footed direction, the RSNO (particularly the brass and the all-important woodwind) bring out all the bluesy flavour of this essentially neo-Romantic music. The infectious third movement, with its clear anticipation of Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’ (the two composers were close colleagues), has long been a popular concert favourite on its own. Here, it’s the depth of feeling and tone that Gray and his musicians uncover in the other three movements (not least the noble-toned finale) that makes this performance a winner,” writes Europadisk.
His recent and coming conducting endeavors include: the Philharmonia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra(USA), English National Opera, Chineke! Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Mozart Players, Spoleto Festival USA, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Philharmonic, Northwest Florida Symphony, Lafayette Symphony Orchestra, and Savannah Philharmonic.