"A musician of utmost integrity and commitment, and an exceptionally dedicated and inspired leader..." Ilya Poletaev, pianist.
Korean- Canadian conductor François Koh is the Music Director of the Georgian Bay Symphony. His enthusiasm for music brought the GBS to win the "Vida Peene Orchestra Award" 2017 from the Ontario Art Council for its artistic excellence and strong community relationships. Furthermore, the orchestra received the Owen Sound Cultural Award, "Outstanding Group" from the City of Owen Sound in 2018. Since his appointment as Music Director in 2015, the GBS has seen the highest attendance levels at concerts in decades.
In May and June 2020, despite the COVID crisis, Dr. Koh and GBS gave two full-time virtual concerts via Youtube instead of cancelling the performances. Dr. Koh successfully kept working with GBS by giving six virtual concerts in the 2020-21 season and performing three live concerts by June 2022. Thanks to his hard work, the GBS received the Owen Sound Cultural Award 2022 for its excellent virtual performances.
In February 2020, Dr. Koh completed his DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) degree in Orchestral Conducting on full scholarship at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Maestro Uri Mayer. His doctoral dissertation, "A Conductor's Guide to Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez," was published by ProQuest in July 2020. While completing the doctoral degree, he conducted the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra as a guest conductor, covered rehearsals of the UTSO, and gave conducting seminars to instrumentalists and composers.
Dr. Koh had rich experience as a classical guitarist, conductor, and founder of orchestras in Korea, France, and Canada. He majored in classical guitar at Kyungwon University in Korea. Attending the first orchestra rehearsal at the University was a refreshing shock, and he decided to become a conductor.
His studies took him to France, where he received a DEM (Diplome d' études musicales) in orchestral conducting at Conservatoire Nationale de Dijon under Mr. Jean Sebastian Béreau. After obtaining the diploma, he founded "Ensemble Orchestral de Dijon," a chamber orchestra, giving concerts in Burgundy region until he left France.
After moving to Vancouver in 2007, he founded a string chamber orchestra, Vancouver Camerata and actively performed in the Greater Vancouver area. In 2008, Dr. Koh was served as Music Director of Sunshine Coast Concert Band until 2011. Moreover, his operatic experience was deepened by working with the Opera Appassionata as an assistant conductor. Dr. Koh made his opera conducting debut with performances of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Patience" at the North Shore Light Opera Society.
In 2013, Dr. Koh completed a master's degree in orchestral conducting in the class of Maestro Alexis Hauser at McGill University in Montreal. While at McGill, he took on a variety of conducting and coaching responsibilities. He has served as the assistant conductor of the McGill Symphony Orchestra, Opera McGill, and McGill Wind Symphony.
Promoting contemporary music is one of his passions. Especially, Dr. Koh has conducted many Canadian contemporary works, including Elizabeth Raum's Violin Concerto, Malcolm Forsyth's Jubilee Overture, Godfrey Ridout's Fall fair, and Abigail Richardson-Schulte's Hockey Sweater for Orchestra with the author Roch Carrier's narration. In addition to this, he particularly has promoted young Canadian composers' series at the GBS' concerts to support their professional carriers. Dr. Koh is also interested in performing pieces inspired by Indigenous culture. He performed Richard Mascall's Nipissing and is planning to collaborate with Unsettled Scores, an Indigenous music association based in Toronto.
He is a recipient of many scholarships, including the 2012 VKCSF Scholarship, the Vancouver Korean Canadian Scholarship Foundation (2012). Korean Honor Scholarship from the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the USA (2012), McGill Blume Scholarship (2011), McGill Graduate Excellence Fellowship(2011-13), the "RBC Emerging Artists Project" Apprentice Conductor Internship(Peterborough Symphony Orchestra) and University of Toronto Fellowship(2014-17).
In 2015, he was nominated for the prestigious "Heinz Unger Award." In 2014, Dr. Koh won a travel grant from the Canada Council for the arts and participated in the International Master Class for Orchestral Conducting with Konrad von Abel in Rumania. He conducted Prokofiev's Classical Symphony with Filarmonica de Stat Târgu Mureș. In 2019, he joined The International Bartók Seminar and Festival in Szombathely, Hungary and performed the Miraculous Mandarin and the Wooden Prince with Savaria Symphony Orchestra.
Dr. Koh has been influenced by a number of conductors from around the world. His former professors include Jean Sebastian Bereau, Pierre Cao, Frank Klassen, Morihiro Okabe, Konrad von Abel, Johannes Schlaefli, David Briskin, and Zsolt Hamar.
Dr. Koh has performed with distinguished soloists including Ilya Poletaev, five International piano competition-winner, Jonathan Crow, the Concert Master of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Kyoko Hashimoto, Professor of Piano and Chair of Piano Area at McGill University, violinist Erika Raum, the winner of the 1992 Joseph Szigeti International Violin Competition, violinist Jeremy Bell, a member Penderecki String Quartet and Artist in Residence at Wilfrid Laurier University and violinist Mark Fewer, former Artistic Director of the Sweetwater Festival and the former Concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.