While still in school, Sado obtained a position in the Kansai Nikikai, a Japanese school of opera, where he had the opportunity to work with the New Japan Philharmonic and the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, learning operatic repertoire. In 1987, he traveled to the United States to attend the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he studied with Seiji Ozawa. Later he won the Davidoff Special Prize for a competition in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. He returned to Japan as an assistant to Ozawa and made his debut with the New Japan Philharmonic in Tokyo with a Haydn symphony series. He later studied with Charles Dutoit, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, and Leonard Bernstein, with whom he toured the Soviet Union and Germany.
Sado won first prize and became the third Japanese winner (after Seiji Ozawa in 1959 and Yoko Matsuo in 1982) at the 39th annual International Besançon Competition for Young Conductors in Besançon, France in 1989. In 1990, he became a regular participant in the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan, along with Christoph Eschenbach and Michael Tilson Thomas. Sado also serves as Artistic Director and Artistic Advisor of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center and principal conductor of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra which he helped establish in 2005. Sado also serves as the chief conductor of the Siena Wind Orchestra in Japan.
Outside of Japan, in October 1993, Sado became Principal Conductor of the Lamoureux Orchestra. In October 1995, Sado was named the winner of the first Leonard Bernstein Jerusalem International Music Competition. In November 2013, the Tonkünstler Orchestra announced the appointment of Sado as its next principal conductor, effective with the 2015-2016 season, with an initial contract of 3 years.
- Allan Kozinn (19 January 1990). "Bernstein and Thomas Head New Pacific Music Festival". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
- "Japanese Wins Bernstein Competition". The New York Times. 13 October 1995. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
- "Yutaka Sado wird Chefdirigent des Tonkünstler-Orchesters" (Press release). Tonkünstler Orchestra. November 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-28.
- "Yutaka Sado wird neuer Tonkünstler-Chefdirigent". Der Standard. 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2013-11-28.
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