Arts & Culture

Actor Damon Gupton to conduct Cliburn amateur competition finals

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra performs its "A Night at the Oscars" program, with actor and guest conductor for the evening, Damon Gupton.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra performs its "A Night at the Oscars" program, with actor and guest conductor for the evening, Damon Gupton. Special to the Star-Telegram

Actor Damon Gupton will take on a new role next month — that of conductor for the final round of the Seventh Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition.

The one-day event, in which six finalists will perform one movement of a concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, takes place at 3 p.m. June 25 in Fort Worth’s Bass Hall. It will conclude a week of competition that will see 72 nonprofessional pianists from around the world compete for cash prizes.

Gupton, a graduate of the drama division of the Juilliard School, is an accomplished actor whose TV credits include The Newsroom, Empire, Law & Order, The Player and, most recently, A&E’s Bates Motel.

But Gupton also is a sought-after conductor.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Michigan and went on to take the baton with the Detroit Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra and other groups around the world. He was a conducting fellow of the Houston Symphony and winner of the Eduardo Mata Conducting Competition.

Gupton received critical praise for his turn on the podium for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s “Night at the Oscars” program earlier this year.

Critic Gregory Sullivan Isaacs wrote in a Star-Telegram review, “As the conductor, he garnered the respect of the orchestra and, with a few exceptions, supplied right-on tempi throughout. His beat loosened in some of the slow sections, causing some ensemble problems, but mostly, he was incisive; precise, clear, confident and expressive.”

In an inteview with the Star-Telegram before his Bass Hall performances, Gupton said, “It was the score to Superman in 1978 that really ignited my curiosity about orchestral music. I became obsessed with [John Williams’] scores for a period of years — before I even heard or purchased a Beethoven or Tchaikovsky score. His scores taught me a lot about instrumentation and color and harmony, even before I knew what those things were.”

The Cliburn finalists will choose one movement of a concerto to perform with Gupton and the FWSO, selected from a list that includes works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Saint-Saens and Shostakovich. Winners will be announced at the conclusion of play June 25.

Gupton replaces Jacomo Rafael Bairos, who previously was announced as the competition’s final-round conductor.

The competition will be webcast live on and For more information and tickets, visit