Arts & Culture

UK Symphony Orchestra to Present 'Scheherazade'

photo of web banner for UK Symphony Orchestra's "Scheherazade" concert with headshots of Sey Ahn, João Rocha and Ella Chang
Three UK doctoral candidates in conducting, Sey Ahn, João Rocha and Ella Chang, will shine at the upcoming UK Symphony Orchestra concert Dec. 5, at Singletary Center.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 3, 2019) —​ Join University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra (UKSO) for a performance of "Scheherazade," Nikolai​ Rimsky-Korsakov’s sparkling tone poem, a musical retelling of the ancient stories of "The Arabian Nights." The concert, which will also include a regional premiere of work by Brazilian composer André Mehmari, as well as music by composer Lili Boulanger, will begin 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall. 

The program, which opens with a performance of Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas’ powerful 1938 work, "Sensemayá," will feature Maestro John Nardolillo conducting Rimsky-Korsakov's work with its celebrated violin solos depicting the princess Scheherazade played by UKSO concertmaster Ella Chang, a doctoral candidate in conducting from Seoul, Korea. Brazilian composer André Mehmari will be present for the Kentucky premiere of "The Royal and Imaginary Dance Suite," conducted by UKSO’s assistant conductor and João Rocha, a doctoral candidate from Brazil. Mehmari's piece was commissioned by the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra for the second International Conducting Competition in 2006. The orchestra will also play Lili Boulanger’s impressionistic work “Of a Spring Morning,” led by assistant conductor Sey Ahn, a doctoral candidate from Seoul. 

Founded in 1918, the UKSO is a 100-member all-student orchestra presenting more than 50 concerts each year, including classical, chamber and education concerts. The group is made up of undergraduate and graduate students from across the United States, Asia, South America and Europe. The orchestra has regularly performed with world-renowned concert artists including Itzhak Perlman, Lang Lang, Sarah Chang, Gil Shaham, Lynn Harrell, Marvin Hamlisch, Denyce Graves, Christine Brewer, Pink Martini, Ronan Tynan, Mark O’Connor, Wynonna Judd, Keith Lockhart and Arlo Guthrie.

UK’s orchestra has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., tours the state of Kentucky regularly, and toured China, playing concerts in major concert halls in Shanghai, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Yangzhou and Beijing. The orchestra’s performance at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts was broadcast on China Central Television, a network reaching more than 1.5 billion viewers. In the fall of 2010, the orchestra played for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 World Equestrian Games, a performance that featured more than 1,500 performers and 200 horses that was seen live on NBC in the United States by 39 million people, and by an estimated 500 million more television viewers worldwide.

John Nardolillo has appeared with more than 30 of the country’s leading orchestras, including the Boston Pops, the National Symphony, and principal orchestras of Seattle, San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Milwaukee, Utah, Columbus, Indianapolis, Oregon, Fort Worth, Buffalo, Alabama, Louisville, Missouri, North Carolina, Toledo, Vermont, Columbus, Omaha and Hawaii. He also recently conducted concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia; and Carnegie Hall in New York. Nardolillo made his professional conducting debut in 1994 at the Sully Festival in France and has since made conducting appearances in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and China. He has led major American orchestras in subscription series concerts, summer and pops concerts, education concerts and tours, and for television and radio broadcasts.

In 2004, Nardolillo joined the faculty at the UK School of Music, where he is currently serving as the director of orchestras.

Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for students, and free for UK students with a valid ID before the day of the performance (at the Singletary Center ticket office). Tickets are available through the Singletary Center ticket office online at, by phone at 859-257-4929, or in person at the venue. Children 6 and older are welcome.

UK Symphony Orchestra is part of the School of Music at the UK College of Fine Arts. The school has garnered a national reputation for high-caliber education in opera, choral and instrumental music performance, as well as music education, music therapy, composition, and theory and music history.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.