Jahja Ling

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Jahja Ling (Chinese 林望傑); is an orchestra conductor. Since 2004 he has been the music director and conductor of the San Diego Symphony. He is of Hokchiu Chinese descent and is now an American citizen. He is the first and only conductor of Chinese descent to serve as music director of a major U.S. orchestra.[1]

Early life[edit]

He was born 25 October 1951, Jakarta, Indonesia & began to play the piano at age 4 and studied at the Yayasan Pendidikan Musik or Music Educating Foundation, Jakarta. At age 17, after he got a Rockefeller award scholarship, he studied at The Juilliard School. There he completed a master's degree and studied piano with Mieczyslaw Munz and conducting with John Nelson. He then studied orchestral conducting at the Yale School of Music under Otto-Werner Mueller and received a doctor of musical arts degree. He was a conducting fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute.[2]


Deeply committed to music education, Mr. Ling served as founding Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (1986-1993) and the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (1981–84). He served as its first Music Director from 1981-1984. He and the SFSYO were selected to perform for the visiting Queen Elizabeth II on a State visit to San Francisco in 1983. Ling was on the conducting roster of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1984–2005, serving as Resident Conductor from 1985-2002.[2]

Since his acclaimed debut with The Cleveland Orchestra in 1985, Ling has conducted the orchestra in 23 consecutive seasons. he also a member of the conducting staff of The Cleveland Orchestra for 20 years, from 1984 to 2005. From 1985 to 2002, he served as Resident Conductor, leading the orchestra in over 400 concerts and over 550 works at Severance Hall, at the annual Blossom Festival, and on tour. During his tenure as Resident Conductor, Ling led the Orchestra's annual concert in downtown Cleveland, heard by more than a million people since first presented in 1990.[3]

For 6 seasons, from 2000-2005, Ling served as Music Director of the Blossom Festival, the last person to serve with that title.[4]

From 1988-2002, Ling was Music Director of the Florida Orchestra, and is now its Music Director Laureate. Since 2004, he has been the Music Director of the San Diego Symphony, with an initial contract for 5 years.[5] In October 2007, Ling extended his contract with the San Diego Symphony to 2012.[6] In November 2014 he announced that he will step down in 2017 after 13 years as director.[1] He is credited with rebuilding and revitalizing the orchestra as well as stabilizing its previously contentious relationship with its musicians.[1]

Collaboration with others[edit]

In 1979, he was rehearsing the Tanglewood Student Orchestra. In 1987 he made his Cleveland Orchestra debut and has appeared as both piano soloist and conductor with numerous U.S. and international orchestras.[2]

From 1998-2001, he also served as Artistic Director of the Taiwan Philharmonic (then under the name of National Concert Hall Symphony Orchestra) and in 2001 he led the Super World Orchestra in Tokyo, composed of principal musicians from 30 of the world’s premier orchestras and broadcast on NHK. In 2009, he also conducted the World Wide Chinese Festival Orchestra including the most accomplished Chinese musicians selected from highest-ranked U.S. and European orchestras.[2]

In May 2000, his debut performance with the St. Louis Symphony and cellist Yo-Yo Ma was featured on the ABC News program in conjunction with a world premiere performance of a Cello Concerto composed by 20/20 anchor Hugh Downs.[3]

Since 2008 he has been volunteering with the Reformed Evangelical Ministry of Dr. Stephen Tong in Jakarta. His first performance was conducting Inauguration Concert "Mendelssohn's Symphony no.2 "Lobgesang" and the Others of The Cathedral of Messiah in Jakarta, with his wife, Jessy Chang and Jakarta Oratorio Society on Thursday, September 18, 2008.[7] Under STEMI, he commits himself to visit Aula Simfonia Jakarta at least once a year[7]He serves as a volunteer Vice President of the Stephen Tong Evangelistic Ministries International (STEMI).[2]

On June 15, 2012 Ling conducted famous pianist Lang Lang's 30th birthday concert with the Schleswig Holstein Festival Orchestra at O2 World in Berlin which was attended by more than 10,000 people and televised live in German and Spanish TVs. Lang Lang also performed with Ling and the San Diego Symphony at their annual 2012 OPUS Gala and together at a private event.[2]

Guest conductor[edit]

He has been guest conductor in multiple cities in the United States, include the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Honolulu, Houston, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, San Francisco, Utah, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and the Aspen Music Festival.[2]

He has also appeared as guest conductor for most of the prominent orchestras in Asia and Europe including the Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Malaysia Philharmonic, MDR Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, NDR Radio-Philharmonie, NDR Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Nationale du Capitole de Toulouse, Royal Philharmonic of London, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic and Tokyo’s Yomiuri Nippon Symphony.[2]

Recently he appeared at the Tivoli Festival with the Copenhagen Philharmonic, with the Bochum Symphony in Germany, China Philharmonic in Beijing, Guangzhou Symphony, and the Singapore Symphony.[7]


Mr. Ling’s recordings include a range of works on the Telarc, Azica Records, and Continuum labels, featuring recent recording of the works by Bright Sheng with the San Diego Symphony as well as performances by the Florida Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, one of which was nominated for a Grammy award. His performance of the world premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Third Symphony with the New York Phillharmonic is included in the orchestra’s “American Celebrations” collection. Also released is a special edition CD featuring Mr. Ling and the Cleveland Orchestra performing Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 “Organ” for the rededication of the Norton Memorial Organ at Cleveland’s Severance Hall.[2]

Achievements and awards[edit]

Most of them are adopted and compiled from his official web:[2]

In 1968, he won the Jakarta Piano Competition.

In 1969, he received the Rockefeller Award for piano performance.

In April 1977, he was awarded the Bronze Medal in the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition (Jerusalem, Israel).

In June 1978, he received a Certificate of Honor at the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition (Moscow, Russia).

In May 1983 he conducted the San Francisco Symphony Youth Symphony in a special concert honoring Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

In 1985, he received the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductor’s Award and the Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellowship at Tanglewood. Subsequently, he was selected by Leonard Bernstein, who became one of his most influential mentors, to be a Conducting Fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute.

In 1991, he performed with the Florida Orchestra at Super Bowl XXV with singer star Whitney Houston. The audio and video of that performance earned platinum record status.

In September 2006, The U.S. House of Representatives presented a Congressional Record of his outstanding achievements in the U.S. Capitol.

His "Concert in Tribute and Remembrance" for 9/11 received an Emmy award.[8]

He has been nominated for the Grammy Award for performances with the Florida Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Personal life[edit]

His religion is Reformed Protestant; he says that Christianity has mostly inspired him as he is. His conversion happened when he was a teenager, before he went to the US. Since then he has been encouraged and confirmed his vocation by counseling with Stephen Tong, one of his spiritual brothers.

Ling and his first wife, Jane, had two sons, Gabriel and Daniel. She died of cancer in 1998.[9] After the mourning time for 3 years of his first wife's death, he took a second wife in 2001.[10] She is Jessie Chang, a Taiwanese Christian pianist; they have two daughters.[11]

Last year, he made the announcement at a meeting with the board of directors, staff and musicians that he planed to leave the organization after the 2016-17 season. He said, "After the 2016-17 season, I look forward to pursuing more international guest conducting, passing on the great musical traditions to the next generation through teach and continuing with my volunteer work in the Christian mission." [12]


  1. ^ a b c Chute, James (November 21, 2014). "Jahja Ling leaving San Diego Symphony". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Jahja Ling". Jahja Ling's Official Web. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  3. ^ a b "Jahja Ling Music Director". San Diego Symphony. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  4. ^ Valerie Scher (4 September 2005). "Ling bids farewell to fest: 'It is time for me to move on'". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2007-03-14. 
  5. ^ Valerie Scher (2 October 2005). "Questions hover over new season". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  6. ^ Valerie Scher (5 October 2007). "Ling's contract is renewed". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2007-11-04. [dead link]
  7. ^ a b c Reformed Millennium Center Indonesia (RMCI) or the Cathedral of Messiah Team. Inauguration Concert: Mendelssohn's Symphony no.2 - Lobgesang and Others; profile of Jahja Ling, p. 1, Reformed Millennium Center Indonesia (RMCI), Jakarta
  8. ^ "Jahja Ling Music Director". San Diego Symphony. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  9. ^ John Fleming (25 April 2002). "Jahja's finale". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  10. ^ Lois Smith Brady (7 January 2001). "Weddings: Vows: Jessie Chang and Jahja Ling". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  11. ^ John Fleming (2 April 2005). "Orchestrated moves". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  12. ^ Fox 5 Digital Team (November 20, 2014). "Jahja Ling to leave San Diego Symphony". fox 5 news. Retrieved 2015-01-16. 

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Irwin Hoffman
Music Director, Florida Orchestra
Succeeded by
Stefan Sanderling
Preceded by
Jung-Ho Pak
Music Director, San Diego Symphony
Succeeded by