Community building

Ironman on the podium: Kris Chapman appointed conductor of Houston Heights Orchestra

Ironman on the podium: Kris Chapman appointed conductor of Houston Heights Orchestra

Kris Chapman, Houston Heights Orchestra, conductor, musical director
Kris Chapman is the new music director of the Houston Heights Orchestra.  KingwoodPops.org
News_Houston Heights Orchestra_April 2012
Chapman keeps a busy schedule as the director of bands at Lone Star College-Montgomery and the conductor of the Kingwood Pops Orchestra. Courtesy of Houston Heights Orchestra
Kris Chapman, Houston Heights Orchestra, conductor, musical director
News_Houston Heights Orchestra_April 2012

There comes a time in the growth of every nonprofit startup when the founder steps down. For the Houston Heights Orchestra the time is now, not even a year after the inaugural concert.

As artistic and music director Jaemi Blair Loeb packs her bags and uproots her life to take the post of orchestra director at Centre College in Danville, Ky., two-year Heights resident Kris Chapman prepares to be this community orchestra's maestro.

"That he lives in the Heights is a huge plus, though that wasn't a requirement for the job," Loeb says. "What we liked about him is his experience with ensembles that combine community members, amateur musicians and college students. After 15 minutes in front of the orchestra, it was obvious he knew how to make the group sound better and have a good time while doing so."

Chapman already keeps a jam-packed schedule as the director of bands at Lone Star College-Montgomery, where for three years he has led the band and jazz ensemble and taught music appreciation, music literature and music theory. He's also the conductor of the Kingwood Pops Orchestra, a position he accepted last January. He plays the trumpet.

"It's going to be a busy year," he laughs. "The other groups I am involved with already have a large infrastructure of support, so I'll have time to build and develop this young orchestra. One of the keys will be having more involvement from board members and volunteers in administrative duties, which is a natural progression from a couple of people doing everything."

 When Chapman is not waving his baton, you'll find him at Onion Creek and Catalina Coffee, two of his favorite local hangouts. As an amateur triathlete who's finished Ironman challenges, he regularly hits the trails around the Heights.

Alongside Chapman a new post was created for assistant conductor Michelle Blair, who will be concentrating on chamber music, education and community engagement programs.

The first concert for the 2012-13 season has not been scheduled yet, though Chapman plans to present a playbill which includes an overture, a big symphony and a concerto featuring a soloist from the orchestra.

"Everyone enjoys great music, and I always strive to bring out the best of the musicians with works that I am most passionate about," he explains. "If I don't believe in what I am doing from the podium, everyone knows. So I always choose music that I love and know others will too, because when I am committed to the music, my enthusiasm comes across, other people get excited and everyone shares in the moment.

"There's always a moment in music making when you look at each other and realize that what you just did was tremendous, that it sounded wonderful. They don't happen all the time, but when they do, they carry you through times when there are finger slips and intonation problems." 

When Chapman is not waving his baton, you'll find him at Onion Creek and Catalina Coffee, two of his favorite local hangouts. As an amateur triathlete who's finished Ironman challenges, he regularly hits the trails around the Heights.

For the time being, Loeb will keep the title of artistic director and slowly transition into a consultant role. She doesn't want to run the ensemble from afar, she says, but she is looking to ensure its longevity. Out of the 10 applicants, she feels Chapman is aligned closest with the spirit of the group. 

On the short list for the music director job were Dominique Røyem, conductor of Bayou City Concert Musicals and assistant conductor of the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra; cellist and freelance conductor Sam Matthews; and native-Texan and Shepherd School of Music graduate Jake Sustaita, who was recently hired as music director of the Minnesota GLBTA orchestra.

The Houston Heights Orchestra is looking for string, brass and percussion players. For more information on becoming a member, click here.