The Minnesota Orchestra outlined a new leadership model for its summer festival today, naming pianist Jon (“Jackie”) Kimura Parker its first-ever Creative Partner for summer programming. Parker will serve as a creative force behind the Orchestra’s popular summer festival over the next three summers, leading a collaborative process with Music Director Osmo Vänskä, the Musicians’Artistic Advisory Committee and artistic staff to develop programming. Beginning the role immediately, Parker will serve as a host, performer and personality beginning in the summer of 2020, plans for which will be announced in the spring.
The Creative Partner post—the first in the Orchestra’s history—is a flexible position, designed to bring varied artistic voices into the organization to shape summer programming with different perspectives, specialties and influences. Creative Partners will serve two- to three-year terms, some of which may overlap. “It’s an exciting model that will allow the Orchestra and its audiences to benefit from creative collaboration with a range of partners who may be performers, conductors or artists from other disciplines,” said President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns. “We are happy to unleash Jackie’s tremendous creative energies in this role.”
Music Director Osmo Vänskä agreed: “Jackie Parker is a great person to have as the first artist in this role. He is an excellent musician, and he also has a great sense of curiosity and adventure that leads to interesting conversation and surprising programming.”
Parker first performed at the Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest in 1990—playing in a Piano Spectacular that showcased four pianists—and has returned for both festival and subscription performances many times since then. “Sommerfest played a huge role in my growth as a musician,” he said. “To now serve in a role where I can contribute to the artistic vision and future of the festival, alongside Osmo Vänskä, musicians and artistic staff, is a dream. My own musical journey has mainly been as a pianist, but I have always welcomed opportunities to step out of the box, and this opportunity to do something new and different is exhilarating.”
Parker has appeared as a piano soloist in the world’s great halls, working with outstanding conductors and orchestras. He frequently performs chamber music with the Miró Quartet and is a founding member of the Montrose Trio. Throughout his career he has also sought out more unconventional projects: As a member of Piano Plus, he has toured remote areas including the Canadian Arctic, performing on instruments from upright pianos to electronic keyboards. He co-founded Off The Score, a quintet with legendary Police drummer Stewart Copeland. He has hosted the TV series Whole Notes on Bravo! and CBC Radio’s Up and Coming, and his YouTube channel showcases a Concerto Chat video series designed to illuminate the piano concerto repertoire. A native of Canada, Parker is a Professor of Piano at The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and serves as the Artistic Advisor of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival.
Said Minnesota Orchestra horn player Ellen Dinwiddie Smith, previous chair of the Musicians’ Artistic Advisory Committee, “I’ve been a member of the Minnesota Orchestra since Jackie first began appearing with us. It was clear from the outset that he and the musicians had a special connection. I believe that Jackie is an ideal creative partner because of the pure joy that emanates from his playing. He exudes playfulness and generosity of spirit that is contagious, and I know our audiences will be captivated by his creativity.”
The Minnesota Orchestra’s summer music festival, Sommerfest, was founded in 1980 by conductor Leonard Slatkin. The July festival, which is held in Orchestra Hall with activities spilling outdoors onto the adjacent Peavey Plaza, has previously been led by Artistic Directors and Advisors including Andrew Litton, Jeffrey Tate, David Zinman and Michael Steinberg.
Said Burns, “We value that Jackie both respects the compelling history of this festival and also has many ideas for taking it in new directions.”
Jon Kimura Parker biography
Known for his passionate artistry and engaging stage presence, with multiple solo appearances at the Berlin Philharmonic, London’s South Bank, the Sydney Opera House, and the Beijing Concert Hall, Jon Kimura Parker continues to perform to great acclaim. Conductors he has recently worked with include Marin Alsop, Teddy Abrams, Claus Peter Flor, James Gaffigan, Hans Graf, Giancarlo Guerrero, Jeffrey Kahane, Andrew Litton, Tito Muñoz, Gianandrea Noseda, Larry Rachleff, Lahav Shani, Bramwell Tovey, Xu Zhong, David Zinman and Pinchas Zukerman. A true Canadian ambassador of music, Parker has given command performances for Queen Elizabeth II, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Japan. He is an Officer of The Order of Canada, his country’s highest civilian honor. In the past two years he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto and awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of British Columbia.
He performs as a duo partner regularly with James Ehnes, Aloysia Friedmann, Lynn Harrell, Jamie Parker, Orli Shaham, and Cho-Liang Lin, with whom he has given world premieres of sonatas by Paul Schoenfield, John Harbison and Steven Stucky. He performs regularly with the Miró Quartet and is a founding member of the Montrose Trio with violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith. The Washington Post’s review of the Montrose Trio’s first tour in 2015 proclaimed them “poised to become one of the top piano trios in the world.”
As a member of the outreach project Piano Plus, Parker toured remote areas including the Canadian Arctic, performing classical music and rock’n’roll on everything from upright pianos to electronic keyboards. In commemoration of his special performances in war-torn Sarajevo in 1995, he was a featured speaker alongside humanitarians Elie Wiesel and Paul Rusesabagina at the 50th Anniversary of the relief organization AmeriCares.
An unusually versatile artist, Parker has also jammed with Audra McDonald, Bobby McFerrin, and Doc Severinsen, and performed tangos on two pianos with Pablo Ziegler. To celebrate Canada 150 he performed alongside jazz greats Benny Green and Bill Charlap in a tribute concert honoring Oscar Peterson. Parker also co-founded Off The Score, a quintet with legendary Police drummer Stewart Copeland, featuring both original compositions and fresh takes on music of Ravel, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.
An active media personality, Parker hosted the television series Whole Notes on Bravo! and CBC Radio’s Up and Coming. His YouTube channel showcases the Concerto Chat video series, with illuminating discussions of the piano concerto repertoire.
In the past two seasons, Parker appeared at Carnegie Hall in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and was guest soloist at the Kennedy Center in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue conducted by Gianandrea Noseda and streamed on medici.tv. He also performed Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 with Jeffrey Kahane and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Grieg’s Concerto with Bramwell Tovey and the New York Philharmonic, Gershwin’s Concerto in F with James Gaffigan and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony.
A committed educator, Jon Kimura Parker is Professor of Piano at The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. His students have won international piano competitions, performed with major orchestras across the U.S., and given recitals in Amsterdam, Beijing, New York and Moscow. He has lectured at The Juilliard School, The Colburn School, The Steans Institute, New York University and Yale University. Parker is also Artistic Advisor of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, where he has given world premieres of new works by Peter Schickele and Jake Heggie.
Jon Kimura Parker is Artistic Director of the Honens International Piano Competition, which in its search for “The Complete Artist” awards the largest prize of its kind. Parker has recorded music of Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Chopin and PDQ Bach for Telarc, Mozart for CBC, and Stravinsky, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Di Liberto and Hirtz under his own label. His recent CD Fantasy features Fantasies of Schubert and Schumann, as well as the sensational Wizard of Oz Fantasy by William Hirtz, receiving this praise from Classical Candor: “The reading is riveting. Parker scores with another favorite recording of the year.”
“Jackie” Parker studied with Edward Parker and Keiko Parker privately, Lee Kum-Sing at the Vancouver Academy of Music and the University of British Columbia, Robin Wood at the Victoria Conservatory, Marek Jablonski at the Banff Centre and Adele Marcus at The Juilliard School. He won the Gold Medal at the 1984 Leeds International Piano Competition. He lives in Houston with his wife, violinist Aloysia Friedmann, and their daughter Sophie. For further information, please see www.jonkimuraparker.com, www.honens.com, www.offthescore.com and www.montrosetrio.com.