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Edwin Outwater, Music Director

Edwin Outwater is Music Director of Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (KWS) and regularly guest conducts the Chicago and New World Symphonies. Equally at home interpreting canonical masterworks, premiering new commissions, and creating truly innovative, audience-building programming initiatives, the American conductor is, as the San Francisco Classical Voice recently observed, “headed for a top-tier future.”

In the 2013-14 season, his seventh as Music Director of the KWS, Outwater  leads the orchestra in a characteristically diverse array of programs. Outwater brings his fresh take to repertory favorites by  Beethoven, Britten, Prokofiev, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms, to inspired collaborations, including one with Dan Deacon and Nicole Lizee with in the KWS’s groundbreaking “Intersections” series, which will also be performed and recorded at Toronto’s Koerner Hall. Linking orchestral music to diverse musical genres and other creative disciplines, these “Intersections” events also include Sarah Kirkland Snider’s song cycle Penelope, which blends art song, indie rock, and folk, and “Bollywood and Beyond,” with Indian virtuosos Trichy and Suba Sankaran. Outwater continues to promote new music this season, performing works by Nico Muhly, Missy Mazzoli, Stewart Goodyear, and Magnus Lindberg, as well as Cameron Carpenter’s The Scandal, with the composer himself on organ. Highlights of the conductor’s coming year also include returning to the San Francisco Symphony for subscription and family concerts, three appearances with Chicago Symphony, and further guest appearances with the New World Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Indianapolis Symphony, and many others.

Over the past season, Outwater and the KWS presented its innovative “Intersections” series, collaborating with the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, Indian virtuosos Trichy and Suba Sankaran, composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, and more. He also partnered with award-winning neuroscientist and author Daniel Levitin, using the latest technology to survey live audience responses to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, in an interactive presentation titled “Beethoven and Your Brain.” Outwater directed the KWS on its first commercial CD release in over a decade, From Here On Out, which features the music of Nico Muhly, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry (a KWS commission) on the Analekta label. According to NPR, “Whether it’s Muhly’s exuberant minimalism, Parry’s delicate textures or Greenwood’s dense thicket of sound, Outwater guides dexterous performances by musicians who play the music like they own it.”

Highlights of the 2011-12 season also included Outwater’s debut in the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW series, conducting the world premiere of Gabriela Lena Frank’s Holy Sisters with the Berkeley Symphony; Ravel’s complete Mother Goose Suite with the New World Symphony; a seven-hour marathon on BBC Wales with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales; an all-Frank Zappa program in Cincinnati; and return visits to the Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Orquestra Nacional do Porto, and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.

In the United States, Outwater has also conducted the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Houston, Detroit, Seattle, and many others. In Canada, he has conducted the National Arts Centre Orchestra, as well as the symphonies of Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Victoria. International appearances include the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the New Zealand Symphony, the Adelaide Symphony, the Malmö Symphony, the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Orquestra Sinfonica de Xalapa, and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. In 2009 he made his professional opera debut with the San Francisco Opera conducting Verdi’s La Traviata, and he has since conducted Piazzola's Maria de Buenos Aires with the Cincinnati Opera, as well as Menotti’s one-act opera Amahl and the Night Visitors at 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 San Francisco Symphony from 2001-2006. While there, he worked closely with Michael Tilson Thomas, accompanied the orchestra on tour and conducted numerous concerts each season. He made his subscription debut in 2002 with Kurt Masur conducting Britten’s War Requiem, and has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Evelyn Glennie, and many others. On two occasions, Outwater stepped in for Michael Tilson Thomas, conducting performances of Stravinsky’s complete Pulcinella, as well as works by Beethoven, Wagner, and Cherubini. In July 2006, Outwater conducted 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 recording with the San Francisco Symphony of the music of Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate was released to wide acclaim.

From 2001–05, Outwater was Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. During his tenure, he led the orchestra in all of their concerts as well as on tour through Europe in summer 2004, when the orchestra made its debut at Vienna’s Musikverein and Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and returned to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Before joining the San Francisco Symphony, Outwater served as Resident Conductor and Associate Guest Conductor of the Florida Philharmonic. He has held posts as 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 has been widely celebrated. In 2004 his education programs at the San Francisco Symphony were given the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming, and his Chinese New Year Program was given the MET LIFE award for community outreach. In Kitchener-Waterloo, Outwater redesigned the orchestra’s education series and initiated myriad community connections. At the San Francisco Symphony, he conducted Family Concerts; Adventures in Music performances, which are heard by more than 25,000 students from San Francisco schools each year; and Concerts for Kids, which reach students throughout Northern California. In Florida, Outwater designed the Florida Philharmonic Family Series and its Music for Youth program, which was heard annually by more than 40,000 fifth-grade students in South Florida. He appears frequently with training orchestras and music festivals throughout the United States and across the world, including the New World Symphony, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the National Music Camp of Australia, the National Youth Orchestra of New Zealand, the Music Academy of the West, the National Orchestral Institute, the 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 attended Harvard University, graduating cum laude in 1993 with a degree in English literature. While at Harvard, he was music director of the Bach Society Orchestra and the Harvard Din and Tonics (an acclaimed a cappella group), and wrote the music for the 145th annual production of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals. He received his master’s degree in conducting from UC Santa Barbara, where he studied with Heiichiro Ohyama and Paul Polivinick. He also studied music theory and composition with John Stewart, Joel Feigin, and Leonard Stein.