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Courtney Lewis To Conduct Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra

Rhema Thompson

Courtney Lewis got an early birthday present on Wednesday as he was named Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra's new conductor and music director.

The organization made the announcement Wednesday afternoon on the stage of Jacoby Symphony Hall, where Lewis will officially take the reins this fall. He turns 30 Thursday.

"This is just about the best 30th birthday present anybody can ask for," he said. "It’s incredibly exciting to be here."

It’s been a long road for the orchestra — Lewis was selected after two-and-a-half months of searching.

"Music is what we’re about and it’s the music director who provides the vision and then brings that vision to reality and I’ll say it again there’s no more important decision that we make," said Martin F. Connor, CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony Association.

Lewis was one of eight finalists selected out of a pool of 200. The Belfast, Ireland native has been conducting since 2007. He made his American debut with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 2008.

Since then, he helped found Boston’s Discovery Ensemble Orchestra, and currently serves as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic.

He will continue his post in New York for the next two years while leading the symphony orchestra here.

In March, Lewis served as a guest conductor for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

He takes the podium for the first time as the orchestra's new conductor in September.

"I'm looking forward to showing the virtuosity of the orchestra to the community," he said.

Lewis will appear Thursday, May 29, on First Coast Connect. The show starts at 9 a.m. on WJCT-FM and streaming at

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.