Lee News

Bernhardt Named Honorary Alumnus of the Year

Lee University has named its 2014 Honorary Alumnus of the Year, Robert Bernhardt. The award will be presented to Bernhardt on November 21, when the Lee University Symphony presents a fall pops concert in Conn Center at 7:30 p.m.

Bernhardt joined Lee's School of Music in the fall of 2011 as an artist-in-residence and conductor of the Lee Symphony Orchestra. Bernhardt also serves as Music Director Emeritus of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera (CSO) and Principal Pops Conductor of the Louisville Orchestra. He was formerly the Music Director and Conductor for 19 seasons with the CSO and is the first to hold the title Emeritus.

In making the announcement, Lee president Dr. Paul Conn called Bernhardt “a tremendous asset to the arts in this region, and a wonderful addition to Lee’s music faculty.” He said Bernhardt demonstrated all the qualities Lee University encourages in its alumni, and “has been a great fit for our campus.”

Bernhardt made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1978 and has recorded for Vanguard, First Edition, Carlton Classics and RPO record labels. Bernhardt has a love for all genres of music, making him equally at home in symphonic, operatic, pops and educational performances.

Since 1999, Bernhardt has served as the artistic director of the Sewanee Music Festival, the artistic director and principal conductor of Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the artistic director of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta, the principal guest conductor of the Kentucky Opera, and music director of the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra.

Bernhardt has a continuing relationship with the Edmonton Symphony conducting there several times each season, and has returned as guest conductor with the Detroit Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Tucson Symphony and the Boston Pops. With the latter, he has been a frequent guest for twenty two years, making his debut there in 1992. He has also conducted the Opera Companies of Nashville and Birmingham as well as the Louisville Ballet, the North Carolina Ballet, the Jacksonville Ballet, and the Lonestar Ballet.

Born in Rochester, New York, Bernhardt holds a master's degree from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he studied with critically-acclaimed conductor Daniel Lewis. He is a summa cum laude graduate from Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he was an academic All-American baseball player and captain of the school’s soccer team.

He and his wife, Nora, have one son, one daughter, and one granddaughter.
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