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. In 2004, the orchestra and television station WNED established the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition. 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. In 2011 she was appointed the Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Institute, serving through the 2013 season.
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. She is scheduled to conclude her Ulster Orchestra tenure after the 2013-2014 season.
Falletta served on the National Council on the Arts from 2008 to 2012, following her appointment by George W. Bush. 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.
Falletta has recorded over 70 albums for such labels as Naxos, featuring works by Brahms, Barber, and Schubert, and women composers such as Clara Schumann and Lili Boulanger, in addition to contemporary composers such as John Corigliano.
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.
- 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.
- "Ulster Orchestra Appoints New Principal Conductor" (Press release). Ulster Orchestra. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
- Alf McCreary (2011-05-09). "JoAnn Falletta becomes Ulster Orchestra's first female conductor". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
- "Ulster Orchestra Announce Rafael Payare as Chief Conductor from 2014-15" (Press release). Ulster Orchestra. January 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
- "Rafael Payare appointed chief conductor in Ulster". Gramophone. 2014-01-15. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
- "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.
- "At its core, music is all about people and touching those people". The Belfast Telegraph. October 6, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- Lawrence van Gelder (October 23, 2002). "Footlights". New York Times. Retrieved September 28, 2008.
- 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
- Classical Archives interview with Falletta
Winston Dan Vogel
|Music Director, Virginia Symphony Orchestra
|Music Director, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
|Principal Conductor, Ulster Orchestra