Biography

One of the foremost conductors of our time, Marin Alsop represents a powerful and inspiring voice. Convinced that music has the power to change lives, she is internationally recognized for her innovative approach to programming and audience development, deep commitment to education, and championing of music’s importance in the world. The first woman to serve as the head of a major orchestra in the United States, South America, Austria and Britain, she is, as the New York Times put it, not only “a formidable musician and a powerful communicator” but also “a conductor with a vision.”


Now in her third season as Chief Conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Alsop leads the orchestra at Vienna’s Konzerthaus and Musikverein, and on recordings, broadcasts and tours. As Chief Conductor and Curator of Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, she curates and conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s summer residencies, formalizing her long relationship with Ravinia, where she made her debut with the orchestra in 2002. Appointed in 2020 as the first Music Director of the National Orchestral Institute + Festival (NOI+F), a program of the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, she has launched a new academy for young conductors and conducts multiple concerts each June with the NOI+F Philharmonic. As 2021-22 Harman/Eisner Artist-in-Residence of the Aspen Institute Arts Program, she draws on her wealth of experience as an artist and thought leader to engage in critical discussions about key social and civic issues, participating in programming and other activities in Aspen, New York, Washington DC and nationwide.

At the close of the 2020-21 season, Alsop assumed the title of Music Director Laureate and OrchKids Founder of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where she continues to conduct the orchestra for three weeks each season. During her outstanding 14-year tenure as its Music Director, she led the orchestra on its first European tour in 13 years, released multiple award-winning recordings, and conducted more than two dozen world premieres, as well as founding OrchKids, its groundbreaking music education program for Baltimore’s most disadvantaged youth. In 2019, after seven years as Music Director, Alsop became Conductor of Honour of Brazil’s São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP), where she continues conducting major projects each season. Deeply committed to new music, she was Music Director of California’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music for 25 years, over the course of which she led 174 premieres.

 

Alsop has longstanding relationships with the London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras, and regularly guest conducts such major international ensembles as the Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, La Scala Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In collaboration with YouTube and Google Arts & Culture, she spearheaded the “Global Ode to Joy” (GOTJ), a crowd-sourced video project to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary. Together with Germany’s official Beethoven anniversary campaign and the leading arts organizations of five continents, she invited the global community to share the call for tolerance, unity and joy of the composer’s Ninth Symphony in videos tagged #GlobalOdeToJoy. The project culminated in December 2020, the month of Beethoven’s birth, with a grand video finale: a GOTJ highlight reel, set to a performance of the “Ode to Joy” anchored by the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony, the international Stay-at-Home Choir and Alsop herself.

 

Recognized with BBC Music “Album of the Year” and Emmy nominations in addition to Grammy, Classical BRIT and Gramophone awards, Alsop’s discography comprises more than 200 titles. These include recordings for Decca, Harmonia Mundi and Sony Classical, as well as her acclaimed Naxos cycles of Brahms with the London Philharmonic, Dvořák with the Baltimore Symphony, and Prokofiev with the São Paulo Symphony. Recent releases include a live account of Bernstein’s Candide with the London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus and a Hindemith collection that marks her first recording as Chief Conductor of the Vienna RSO.

Recognized with multiple Gramophone Awards, Alsop’s extensive discography includes recordings for Decca, Harmonia Mundi and Sony Classical, as well as acclaimed Naxos cycles of Brahms with the London Philharmonic, Dvořák with the Baltimore Symphony, and Prokofiev with the São Paulo Symphony. Committed to new music, she was Music Director of California’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music for 25 years.

The first and only conductor to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, Alsop has also been honored with the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award, and made history as the first female conductor of the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms. Amongst many other awards and academic positions, she served as 2020 Artist-in-Residence at Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts, is Director of Graduate Conducting at the Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute and holds Honorary Doctorates from Yale University and the Juilliard School. To promote and nurture the careers of her fellow female conductors, in 2002 she founded the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship, which was renamed in her honor as the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship in 2020. The Conductor, a documentary about her life, debuted at New York’s 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.

To see a full list of firsts and achievements, please see the Timeline.

To see Marin’s frequently asked questions, please see the Q&A.