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Edwin Outwater, Music Director
Edwin Outwater is Music Director of Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (KWS), where his contract was recently extended through the 2016-17 season. He also serves as Director of Summer Concerts at the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and regularly guest conducts the Chicago and New World Symphonies. Equally adept at interpreting canonical masterworks, premiering new commissions, and creating outside-the-box audience-building initiatives, the American conductor is, as San Francisco Classical Voice notes, “headed for a top-tier future.”
In the 2014-15 season, his eighth as Music Director of the KWS, Outwater offers an in-depth investigation of “The Mozart Phenomenon”; partners with Time for Three; reveals Stravinsky to be as traditional as he was revolutionary; collaborates with actors in works inspired by Shakespeare; presents music and comedy from composers including Rossini and PDQ Bach; and promotes contemporary Canadian composers Zosha Di Castri and Riho Esko Maimets. In their groundbreaking “Intersections” series, Outwater and the KWS undertake cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaborations with Chinese pipa virtuoso Lan Weiwei, video artist Tess Girard, and Canadian novelists Wayne Grady and Miram Toews, as well as reprising Quantum: Music at the Frontier of Science, a visionary exploration of music and theoretical physics, at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, during the KWS’s first full tour in decades.
This summer, in his inaugural season as Director of Summer Concerts at the SFS, an appointment that extends throughout the year, Outwater directed jazz-inflected works by Bernstein, Gershwin, and Ravel; an all-Beethoven program with the Gryphon Trio; collaborations with pianist Makoto Ozone and Broadway star Cheyenne Jackson; and an interactive Beethoven’s Fifth with author Matthew Guerrieri. His work with the SFS continues later this season when Outwater conducts the orchestra’s New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball with Measha Brueggergosman; collaborates with Nathaniel Stookey at the SFS’s new alternative performance space, SoundBox; and leads a trio of family concerts, while curating the entire family series. He also returns to lead a “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” with the Chicago Symphony and holiday concerts with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBCNOW), besides juxtaposing Beethoven’s Fifth with new music by Sean Shepherd and Nico Muhly at the Milwaukee Symphony.
Last season, Outwater led the KWS in repertory ranging from Beethoven to today’s leading contemporary composers. The KWS’s “Intersections” series featured Latin Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Alex Cuba and a program entitled Sound in Motion: Music and the Body. Outwater also directed the KWS on From Here On Out, its 2011 Analekta release of music by Muhly, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, the last piece a KWS commission. He also returned to guest conduct the Chicago Symphony, New World Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, BBCNOW, and made his debut at the Barbican Centre with These New Puritans and the Heritage Orchestra in "TNP Expanded."
In the United States, Outwater has conducted the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as symphony orchestras including Baltimore, Houston, Detroit, and Seattle. In Canada, he has led the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the symphonies of Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Victoria. International appearances include the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony, Kyoto Symphony, BBCNOW, the New Zealand Symphony, Adelaide Symphony, Malmö Symphony, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, Mexico City Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa, and Hong Kong Sinfonietta. In 2009 he made his professional opera debut conducting La traviata at the San Francisco Opera, and he has since led productions at Cincinnati Opera and New York’s Lincoln Center. He participated as Associate Conductor in both YouTube Symphony projects, at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House.
Outwater was Resident Conductor of the SFS from 2001–06, working closely with Michael Tilson Thomas, accompanying the orchestra on tour, conducting numerous concerts each season, and collaborating with such artists as Kurt Masur, Yo-Yo Ma, and Evelyn Glennie. Outwater twice substituted for Tilson Thomas, and in July 2006 he led the world premiere performance and recording of The Composer is Dead by Nathaniel Stookey and Lemony Snicket, which was later released by HarperCollins. In 2008, his SFS recording of music by Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate was released to wide acclaim.
From 2001–05, Outwater was Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, leading all its concerts and a 2004 European tour, when the orchestra made debuts at Vienna’s Musikverein and Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, besides returning to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Before joining the SFS, Outwater served as Resident Conductor and Associate Guest Conductor of the Florida Philharmonic, Associate Conductor of the Festival-Institute at Round Top in Texas, Principal Conductor of the Adriatic Chamber Music Festival in Molise, Italy, and Assistant Conductor of the Tulsa Philharmonic.
Outwater’s work in music education and community outreach is justly celebrated. In 2004 his education programs at the SFS received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming, and his Chinese New Year Program won the MET LIFE award for community outreach. In Kitchener-Waterloo, Outwater redesigned the orchestra’s education series and initiated myriad community connections. At the SFS, he conducted Family Concerts; Adventures in Music performances, heard by more than 25,000 students from San Francisco schools each year; and Concerts for Kids, which reaches students throughout Northern California. In Florida, Outwater designed the Florida Philharmonic Family Series and its Music for Youth program, heard annually by more than 40,000 fifth-grade students in South Florida. He appears frequently with training orchestras and music festivals worldwide, including the New World Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the National Music Camp of Australia, National Youth Orchestra of New Zealand, Music Academy of the West, National Orchestral Institute, Festival-Institute at Round Top, and New York’s Mannes Conservatory Orchestra. Outwater has served as music director of the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony and on the faculties of the University of Tulsa, Idyllwild Arts Academy, and University of California, Santa Barbara.
A native of Santa Monica, California, Edwin Outwater graduated cum laude in English literature from Harvard University, where he was music director of the Bach Society Orchestra and the a cappella group Harvard Din and Tonics, and wrote the music for the 145th annual production of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals. He received his master’s in conducting from UC Santa Barbara, where he studied with Heiichiro Ohyama and Paul Polivinick, besides studying music theory and composition with John Stewart, Joel Feigin, and Leonard Stein.