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Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Hires New Concertmaster

South Korean violinist Jinwoo Lee will assume the role, effective from the start of the 2023/24 concert season


After an international search to fill the position for over four years, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) has appointed Jinwoo Lee to the role of concertmaster as of the upcoming season.

Lee succeeds Frank Almond, who stepped down as concertmaster at the end of the 2019/20 season after a 25-year tenure, and Ilana Setapen — who has served as acting concertmaster since September 2020. Setapen will return to her role of associate concertmaster this fall.

Jinwoo Lee began violin studies at age four. A graduate of Germany’s Humboldt Grammar School in Cologne, The Juilliard School, and the Manhattan School of Music, his mentors included Stephen Clapp, Donald Weilerstein, and Robert and Nicholas Mann.

He has performed across the U.S., Korea, and Europe, in addition to receiving prizes at the Sorantin Competition San Angelo, International Rodolfo Lipizer Violin Competition, International Georg Kulenkampff Violin Competition, International Tibor Varga Violin Competition, International Louis Spohr Violin Competition, among other events.

As an educator, he has served on the violin faculty at Düsseldorf’s Robert Schumann Musikhochschule from 2018 until 2022. He is currently the first concertmaster of Germany’s Neue Philharmonie Westfalen.

“It is a great honor to be named the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra,” said Lee. “I am absolutely thrilled and grateful to become a member of this marvelous ensemble, and I truly look forward to getting to know my new colleagues in the orchestra, the organization, and the city as I take on my new role.”

“I am thrilled to welcome our new concertmaster…His natural leadership gifts as well as his mindful and integrous approach to each work are qualities that will be a tremendous asset to the orchestra and a wonderful gift for Milwaukee audiences,” added MSO music director Ken-David Masur. “Jinwoo brings a richness of cultural experiences with him, as well as an extensive performance history on the global stage. 

“The works he led together with the orchestra during our search sparkled with energy, attentiveness to detail, a range of nuance and virtuosity, and great artistic spontaneity,” Masur continued. “What has impressed me the most, perhaps, is his great humility and curiosity in service to the music, a quality that both the MSO musicians and I share and respect deeply, and that I know will enrich our work together in this new artistic chapter.”

Established in 1959, the MSO comprises 72 full-time professional musicians, who perform over 135 classics, pops, family, education, plus community concerts each season. Its community programs serve over 70,000 children and their families, and its radio broadcast series reaches two million listeners each year.

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june 2024

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july 2024

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