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Edwin Outwater Appointed Music Director Ending Two-Year Search

“One of the most innovative conductors on the scene today” – Michael Tilson Thomas

April 9, 2020 by Tim Records

Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed…enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events…” –Leonard Bernstein

In the past two decades, savvy classical music presenters have focused on evolving the art form – through cross-genre collaborations, new audience engagement, and demonstrating relevance to modern-day life. In the past two months, this relevance has been thrown into sharp relief, as audiences worldwide have found comfort, escapism, and catharsis in digital performances during the COVID-19 pandemic. San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s contribution to this movement is the Tiny Dorm Concert Series, an expertly curated whole-community effort connecting faculty, students, and alumni with audiences across the globe.

On Saturday, April 11, the series’ closing night will be hosted and curated by visionary conductor Edwin Outwater, announced today as the new SFCM Music Director. San Francisco audiences will recognize Outwater from his enduring relationship with San Francisco Symphony, where he has served as Resident Conductor, Director of Summer Concerts, and Music Director of its Youth Orchestra. Collaborations with living composers such as Mason Bates, Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Missy Mazzoli have been hallmarks of his career, as have projects with household names like Renée Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, John Lithgow, Metallica, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Outwater has also enjoyed high-profile engagements with Ben Folds, Sara Bareilles, Seth MacFarlane, Tituss Burgess, and legendary drag performers Peaches Christ, Bob The Drag Queen, and Courtney Act.

“We knew SFCM’s next music director would need to have a rare combination of qualities,” said Conservatory President David Stull. “Essentially, we sought an architect for the ensemble of the future – someone with both a truly innovative mindset and extensive experience working with top-tier ensembles. After a two-year search, we have found this leader in Edwin Outwater.”

As music director, Outwater’s primary focus will be the conservatory’s broadscale musical objectives – shaping the large ensemble experience across orchestra, chamber, and contemporary music ensembles, striking a balance between canonical works and new initiatives, and guiding programmatic themes. His duties will also include direct mentorship of students in the conducting program.

“There is an incredible wave of growth happening at SFCM,” said Outwater. “I’m thrilled to be joining this dynamic and forward-looking institution. Under David’s leadership, the conservatory’s expansions, including creative technology and jazz, are creating new pathways for young musicians. I’m eager to help nurture these entrepreneurial students as they build careers for today’s musical landscape.”

A California native, Outwater has forged his own inventive career at major orchestras and institutions throughout the world, where he has often premiered new commissions and introduced audiences to works beyond the standard repertoire. His stellar reputation as a curator has been built via the SoundBox series in San Francisco and the Intersections series, which has connected orchestral music to quantum physics, neuroscience, film, food, and yoga, in the United States and Canada. His broad curiosity has resulted in collaborations with a diverse array of artists from all musical genres – from cellist Johannes Moser to Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq – and inspired the creation of Hack The Orchestra, a hackathon that challenges young programmers to create new content for the concert experience.

As the COVID-19 pandemic drives both higher education and arts institutions to embrace the agile mindset required for rapid innovation, Outwater’s vision can be expected to shape the SFCM student experience across programs and platforms.

“Ultimately, I hope our present circumstances can be a catalyst for greater ingenuity,” said Outwater. “SFCM makes it a priority to empower students to take an active role in creating their own musical futures, and this is the attitude the world needs to continue moving forward. Leonard Bernstein called it the lesson of the century: ‘as long as we insist on maintaining artistic vitality, we are able to hope in man.’”

Tiny Dorm Concert Series
Saturday, April 11; 5-6:30pm Pacific
Closing Night
Performances by Mason Bates, Marnie Breckenridge, Jacob Nissly, and Chen Zhao
Emceed and curated by Edwin Outwater

About Edwin Outwater

Considered “one of the most innovative conductors on the scene today,” Edwin Outwater works with orchestras and institutions throughout the world, producing, curating, and conducting unique concert experiences. He frequently premieres new works and connects audiences with repertoire beyond the mainstream. Recent wide-ranging projects include collaborations with Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, John Lithgow, and Metallica. Outwater has a long association with the San Francisco Symphony. He regularly conducts and curates their SoundBox series, and has conducted and hosted “Holiday Gaiety”, an LGBTQ holiday concert he created with drag performer Peaches Christ. He was Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra leading them on a highly acclaimed European tour, and also served as San Francisco Symphony Director of Summer Concerts. Outwater is Music Director Laureate of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, where he returns regularly. Recent guest appearances include the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony, Brussels Philharmonic, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.