Priestman studied at the University of Birmingham and the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles, Belgium.
He founded and was principal conductor of the Opera da Camera and the Orchestra da Camera in Birmingham, and Music Director of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon (1960–1963). He was Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (1964–1968), Music Director of the Handel Society of New York (1966–1970), Resident Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (1968–1970), Music Director of the Denver Symphony Orchestra (1970–1978), Principal Conductor of the New Zealand National Orchestra (1973–1976), Music Director of the Florida Philharmonic (1977–1980), Principal Conductor of the Cape Town Symphony (1980–1986), and Principal Guest Conductor of the Malmö Symphony Orchestra (1988–1990). His final performances as conductor took place in Edmonton in October 2003 . As a guest conductor he has appeared with all the major British orchestras, including more than 300 concerts for the BBC, with orchestras in Australia, Hong Kong, Southern Africa, and all the major orchestras of Scandinavia, Belgium etc. etc. He founded the New York Handel Opera Society and appeared frequently at the Mostly Mozart concerts there as well as for seven years at the Aspen Music Festival and seven at the Grant Park, Chicago, Festival. He recorded for RCA and Westminster Records, making the first complete Handel operas for the latter.
As an academic he was Dean of the Faculty of Music and Professor at the University of Cape Town (1980–1986) and Artist-in-residence at the University of Kansas (1992–2002) and for three years was Music Director of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada (1967–1969).
Priestman has written articles in music periodicals and encyclopedias including the New Grove Encyclopedia, Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Encyclopædia Britannica, and Music and Letters. He resides in France.
He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Regis University, Denver, and the University of Colorado. He was awarded the Golden Lyre by the American Institute of High Fidelity for services to music in the United States.
|Music Directors, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Oron, Aryeh. "Biography". Bach Cantatas website.
Baker, D.T. "Edmonton Symphony History". Edmonton Symphony Orchestra website.