Kenneth Woods is an American conductor and cellist. He is widely recognized for his interpretations of the works of Mahler, Haydn, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Bruckner and Hans Gál, and is acknowledged as an expert orchestra builder and conducting teacher.
Woods pursued his advanced conducting studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and also studied at leading summer institutes and workshops around the world. He studied conducting with Leonard Slatkin, David Zinman, Jorma Panula, Murry Sidlin, Robert Spano, and Gerhard Samuel.
Hailed by the Washington Post as an “up-and-coming conductor” and a “true star” of the podium, Woods is Music Director and Conductor of the Oregon East Symphony and Chorale, a group regularly hailed as the "finest small-town orchestra in North America," Principal Guest Conductor of the Rose City Chamber Orchestra and Music Director of Surrey Mozart Players. Woods has also been an assistant conductor at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Pops.
Already known in America as one of the most exciting conductors of the new generation, Woods is quickly becoming recognized as major talent on the international scene. He has worked with many orchestras of international distinction including the National Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Wrexham Symphony Orchestra, and the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra. He has also appeared of the stages of some of the world’s leading music festivals, including Aspen, Lucerne, Round Top and Scotia. His work on the concert platform and in the recording studio has led to numerous broadcasts on BBC Radio 3, National Public Radio, and CBC Radio 2.
In the spring of 2001, Woods was selected by Leonard Slatkin as one of four participants in the Kennedy Center National Conducting Institute. At the completion of the Institute, he led the National Symphony Orchestra in a debut concert, drawing great critical acclaim and a return invitation from the NSO. In the spring of 2000, David Zinman selected Woods from a pool of over 200 applicants to be a fellow in the inaugural class of the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen. Toronto Symphony Music Director Peter Oundjian has praised Woods as “a conductor with true vision and purpose. He has a most fluid and clear style and an excellent command on the podium… a most complete musician.”
Woods has conducted critically praised productions of operas from Britten to Puccini, and ballet scores as diverse as Giselle, The Nutcracker, Firebird and Konservatoriet. Woods’ activities as an active proponent of contemporary music include collaborations as a conductor or cellist with such figures as John Corigliano, Krystopf Penderecki, Peter Lieberson, Oliver Knussen and many others.
During his tenure as Music Director of the Grande Ronde Symphony from 1999-2002, and the Oregon East Symphony from 2000-, Woods led these orchestras through a period of rapid growth in artistic achievement, audience and range of activities. At the OES he has been the founding artistic director of a new training orchestra and training institute, overseen a massive expansion of educational and outreach activities, and brought the orchestra substantial new artistic acclaim. He has led the creation and programming of numerous educational concert series, been active in community outreach and an active collaborator with music educators.
In 2013, Woods was appointed Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Vernon Handley, who died in 2008.
Principal Guest Conductor of the Pacific Northwest's leading professional chamber orchestra since 2005, he was invited by the Rose City Chamber Orchestra to start a new international workshop for young conductors. The Rose City International Conductor's Workshop has since become recognized as one of the leading training centers for emerging conductors, attracting students from all over the world. Woods has also taught conducting in master classes organized by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and is a frequent consultant and adjudicator at institutions such as the Royal College of Music.
Cellist and Chamber Musician
As a cellist he has been recipient of the Aspen Fellowship (Woods has received the Aspen Fellowship as both a cellist and conductor), the Dale Gilbert Award (the only musician to win this award in consecutive years), the Strelow Quartet Fellowship, the National Endowment for the Arts Rural Residency Grant and has recorded and toured extensively as soloist and chamber musician. He has played chamber music with members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Smithsonian Chamber Players, the Cincinnati, Chicago and Toronto symphonies, and the Minnesota, Gewandhaus and Concertgebouw orchestras. He was founding cellist of the NEA recognized Taliesin Trio, and of the Masala Quartet, who have recorded for Vienna Modern Masters and appeared at festivals and concert series in the US and Europe. As a student, he coached with members of many of the world's leading quartets, including the Tokyo, Vermeer, La Salle, Pro Arte, Borodin, Emerson and Vegh. In 2006 he became a founding artist of the Clocktower Chamber Music Festival in Durango, Colorado. In 2008, he became artist in residence at the Ischia Chamber Music Festival, and founding cellist of the string trio, Ensemble Epomeo, with whom he toured the US and Europe in 2009.
Writer and Blogger
Woods is also the author of a popular blog, A View from the Podium, which has been featured in Gramophone Magazine and commented on by the music and arts critics of The New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, The Independent and many other leading publications. In this blog he sited often sources for his inspiration sometimes well outside of the musical world, as it was for photographs of Russian photographer Alexey Titarenko, that influenced his interpretation of Dmitri Shostakovich's 7th Symphony. Future projects include a series of audio podcasts, and his first commercial CDs, to be recorded in the summer of 2008.
- Midgette, Anne. "Little-known composers get their due in the studio if not the concert hall." Washington Post, 10 August 2012. Accessed on 8/13/12 at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/little-known-composers-get-their-due-in-the-studio-if-not-the-concert-hall/2012/08/09/d7b5c1c2-e0b6-11e1-8fc5-a7dcf1fc161d_story.html. See also Arkivmusic page for Gál, accessed on 8/13/12 at: http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/Name/Hans-Gál/Composer/4144-1
"On the Downbeat- Up and Coming Conductors," Joe Banno, Washington Post, July 2, 2001
"Scotia Festival of Music on Home Stretch," Stephen Pedersen, Halifax Mail Star, June 7, 1997
"Reading the Score and So Much More," Tim Page, Washington Post, June 24, 2001
"Round Up the Usual Suspects," David Stabler, The Oregonian, May 27, 2007
"Too Few American Maestros? Try Making Them," James Oestreich, New York Times, June 24, 2001
"Conductors Showcase at Roundtop," Jerry Young, Austin American Statesman, June 23, 1999
"New Direction for NPO," Peter Palmer, Nottingham Evening Post, October 25, 2006
"Conductor Says Arts at Risk When Funders Call the Tune," Western Mail, June 2, 2008
"Student Conductors Learn Secrets of the Bataon," The Oregonian, August 2, 2008