Education and Early Career
Falletta was educated at the Mannes College of Music and The Juilliard School in New York City. She began her musical career as a virtuoso guitar and mandolin player, and in her twenties was often called to perform with the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic when a work called for a mandolin or guitar obbligato. She entered Mannes in 1972 as a guitar student, but began conducting the student orchestra in her freshman year, immediately precipitating her desire for a career as a conductor. While the Mannes administration at that time expressed doubts about the ability of any woman to gain a music directorship, it consented to an official transfer of emphasis for Falletta. After graduation, she pursued further study at Queens College (M.A. in orchestral conducting) and the Juilliard School of Music (M.M., D.M.A. in orchestral conducting). Falletta studied conducting with Jorge Mester, Semyon Bychkov, and others, including master classes under Leonard Bernstein.
In 1991, Falletta was appointed the eleventh music director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. In May 2011, she signed the most recent extension of her Virginia contract through the 2015–2016 season. She has also served as music director of the Long Beach Symphony and of The Women's Philharmonic Orchestra (San Francisco). In May 1998, Falletta was named music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and she formally took up the post with the 1999–2000 season. During her tenure in Buffalo, the orchestra has made recordings for Naxos and returned to Carnegie Hall after a 20-year absence. Her present contract with the organization runs through the 2015–2016 season. In 2011 she was appointed artistic director of the Hawai'i Symphony Orchestra.
Falletta has won a number of prestigious conducting awards, including the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductors Award in 2002, the Stokowski Competition, the Toscanini Award, Ditson Award and Bruno Walter Award for conducting. She has also has received eleven awards from ASCAP for creative programming, as well as the American Symphony Orchestra League’s John S. Edwards Award. Falletta has championed the work of several contemporary American composers throughout her career, with an extensive repertoire of new works and over 100 world premieres to her credit.
Outside of the USA, Falletta first guest-conducted the Ulster Orchestra in August 2010, and returned for further concerts in January 2011. In May 2011, Falletta was named the 12th principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, effective with the 2011–2012 season, with an initial contract of 3 years. She is the first American and the first female conductor to be appointed the orchestra's principal conductor.
In 2011 she was appointed the Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Institute, serving through the 2013 season.
Falletta's discography now extends to more than seventy releases for such labels as Naxos, featuring works of Classical composers including Brahms, Barber, and Schubert, and women composers such as Clara Schumann and Lili Boulanger, in addition to numerous contemporary compositions. Her recordings with Naxos have earned 2 Grammy Awards and nine Grammy nominations.
Public Life and Media Appearances
Falletta served on the National Council on the Arts from 2008 to 2012, as a George W. Bush appointee. In the 1987 Swedish documentary A Woman Is a Risky Bet: Six Orchestra Conductors, directed by Christina Olofson, JoAnn Falletta appears conducting the Queens Philharmonic in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in rehearsal and performance.
JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition
The JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition was founded in 2004 by PBS member station WNED and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO). It was the world’s first concerto competition for classical guitarists with accompaniment by a full symphony orchestra.
Every two years, it brings international guitarists to Buffalo, New York for one week in June to perform publicly in competition for cash prizes, a recording contract, national and international broadcast exposure, and a return engagement with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. During the final round of the competition, the three finalists perform with the BPO, conducted by JoAnn Falletta.
"Guitar Days," in which competitors perform in free public concerts around Western New York, was added to the competition as a community outreach program in 2008, to allow more area residents the opportunity to enjoy classical guitar music at its finest level.
In the 2012 competition, for the first time the semifinals were aired live for viewers on WNED-TV public television, in addition to being broadcast live for radio listeners, and streamed online at WNED's website.
Through the competition, WNED and the BPO seek to bring prominent recognition to highly skilled classical guitarists, and promote music appreciation and enhance the visibility of the cultural arts in Western New York. In Falletta's own words: "In this competition, we celebrate our finalists as superb visiting artists.... Their presence enriches our region, and we hope that the competition will ultimately increase the presence of the classical guitar on orchestral stages throughout the world."
- Official website
- JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition website
- Columbia Artists Management agency page on Falletta
- Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra page on Falletta
- Virginia Symphony Orchestra page on Falletta
- Archival Materials related to JoAnn Falletta held by Old Dominion University in the Virginia Symphony Orchestra collection
- David Nicholson (May 13, 2011). "Falletta signs new Virginia Symphony contract". Daily Press. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
- Janet Wiscombe (October 17, 1993). "Music, maestro, please". Long Beach Press-Telegram. Retrieved September 28, 2008.
- "Falletta signs five year contract" (Press release). Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. February 16, 2011. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
- Lawrence van Gelder (October 23, 2002). "Footlights". New York Times. Retrieved September 28, 2008.
- "At its core, music is all about people and touching those people". The Belfast Telegraph. October 6, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "Ulster Orchestra Appoints New Principal Conductor" (Press release). Ulster Orchestra. May 9, 2011. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
- Alf McCreary (May 9, 2011). "JoAnn Falletta becomes Ulster Orchestra's first female conductor". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
- "Falletta Appointed BMC Guest Conductor".
- "Grammy Awards and Nominations".
- "JoAnn Falletta at National Endowment for the Arts".
- Edward Yadzinski (August 1999). "JoAnn Falletta Brings New Perspective to the Philharmonic". Living Prime Time. Retrieved February 2, 2010.
- JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition website. Retrieved: 2012-06-07.
- Sarah Maurer (June 2, 2012). "Falletta International Guitar Competition Returns". Buffalo Rising. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- JoAnn Falletta article, Classical Guitar Magazine, November 2006.
Winston Dan Vogel
|Music Director, Virginia Symphony Orchestra
|Music Director, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra