Grant Gershon (born November 10, 1960) is an American conductor and pianist. He is Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Resident Conductor of the Los Angeles Opera, member of the Board of Councillors for the USC Thornton School of Music and a member of the Chorus America Board of Directors.
Gershon was born in Norwalk, California and grew up in Alhambra, California. His mother was a piano teacher, and he began music lessons at 5 years old. After graduating from Alhambra High School, he entered Chapman College in Orange, California as a double major in piano and voice; he later transferred to the University of Southern California where he majored in piano. He eventually graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1985.
Gershon is married to soprano Elissa Johnston.
Gershon has appeared as guest conductor with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Minnesota Opera, Royal Swedish Opera, Juilliard Opera Theatre, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Gustav Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Finnish chamber orchestra Avanti!, among others. He has led performances at many of the world's most prestigious festivals, including the Ravinia, Edinburgh, Vienna, Aspen, Ojai and Helsinki festivals as well as the Roma-Europa Festival and the Festival Otonno in Madrid.
He served as Assistant Conductor / Principal Pianist with Los Angeles Opera from 1988 to 1994, where he participated in over 40 productions and garnered a reputation as one of the country's exceptional vocal coaches. He was named Assistant Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen in 1994, a position he held until 1997.
He has also served as Assistant Conductor at the Salzburg Festival, the Berlin State Opera and the Aix-en-Provence Festival, working with conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen, Daniel Barenboim and Claudio Abbado. He has served as pianist for many artists on recording and in recital, including Kiri Te Kanawa, Peter Schreier, Rod Gilfry and Audra McDonald.
In May 2000, Gershon was named Music Director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale effective Fall 2001, taking over for Paul Salamunovich who was retiring. He is only the fourth conductor to hold that title. During this time, he has conducted over 100 performances at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and has led the chorus in a number of world premieres, including:
- Iri da Iri by Esa-Pekka Salonen
- "the national anthems" by David Lang
- Inscapes by Swan Family Composer-in-Residence Shawn Kirchner
- You Are (Variations) by Steve Reich
- Requiem by Christopher Rouse
- The City of Dis by Louis Andriessen
- "Los cantores de las montañas" (The Singing Mountaineers) by Gabriela Lena Frank
- Plath Songs by Shawn Kirchner
- A Map of Los Angeles by David O
- SANG by Eve Beglarian
- Messages and Brief Eternity by Bobby McFerrin and Roger Treece, lyrics by Don Rosler
- Broken Charms by Donald Crockett
- Rezos (Prayers) by Tania León
- Mother's Lament by Sharon Farber
- The Salvage Men by Jeff Beal
- Mangá Pakalagián (Ceremonies) by Nilo Alcala
- Ave Maria/Scarborough Fair by Paul Chihara
- In the Desert With You by Moira Smiley
He led the U.S. premiere of Two Songs to Poems of Ann Jäderlund by Esa-Pekka Salonen with the Master Chorale, along with other U.S. premieres of works by composers James MacMillan, Tarik O'Regan, Sofia Gubaidulina and Mark-Anthony Turnage.
Beyond his work with the Master Chorale, he has also championed new music. He conducted the world premiere of John Adams opera/theatre piece, I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, directed by Peter Sellars. He and pianist Gloria Cheng premiered Hallelujah Junction, a piano-duo piece written for them by John Adams. In February 2007, he conducted the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's opera, The Grapes of Wrath with Minnesota Opera, along with following performances with Utah Opera. In 2010, Gershon led the world premiere performances of Il Postino by Daniel Catán, featuring Plácido Domingo as the poet Pablo Neruda.
On May 21, 2007, the Los Angeles Opera and Los Angeles Master Chorale issued a joint press release. In it, they announced that Gershon would be extending his contract with the Master Chorale through the 2010/2011 season, and that he was being named Associate Conductor/Chorus Master of Los Angeles Opera. In the press release, Plácido Domingo called Gershon, "an exceptional musician whose broad musical interests, technical mastery and impressive experience will be a huge asset to LA Opera." In this position at LA Opera Gershon has conducted a run of 8 performances of La traviata, a set of performances of Handel's "L'allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato" in Mark Morris's production, and the previously cited Il Postino.
On May 18, 2014, the Los Angeles Master Chorale issued a press release, in which they announced that Gershon would be extending his contract with the Master Chorale through the 2019/2020 season. With this renewal, Gershon's title will change to Artistic Director, which reflects his desire to "redefine the choral experience." With this expanded role, Gershon will create an "immersive" concert experience by incorporating lighting, staging, video, movement, and attire into the production. The Chorale will seek to engage new audiences by presenting more concerts at venues outside of Disney Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.
Gershon has made five recordings with the Los Angeles Master Chorale:
- Itaipú by Philip Glass and Two Songs to Poems of Ann Jäderlund by Esa-Pekka Salonen (RCM 12004)
- You Are (Variations) by Steve Reich (Nonesuch)
- Daniel Variations by Steve Reich (Nonesuch)
- A Good Understanding by Nico Muhly (Decca)
- Miserere by Henryk Górecki (Decca)
Awards and recognition
- In 2015, Gershon received the Louis Botto Award for Entrepreneurial Zeal and Innovative Action from Chorus America
- In 2012, under Gershon's direction the Los Angeles Master Chorale received the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence from Chorus America.
- Gershon was honored with the WQXR Gramophone America Award for 2006 for his recording of Reich's You Are (Variations). In addition, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Newsday, among others, selected it as one of the top ten classical recordings of 2005.
- He was named USC Thornton School of Music Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in May 2002
- "About the Chorale: Music Director Grant Gershon". Los Angeles Master Chorale website. Archived from the original on 29 December 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
- Henken, John (September 30, 2001). "Music; Now It's His Turn; Grant Gershon's diverse career as singer and conductor leads him to the helm of L.A.'s Master Chorale". Los Angeles Times.
- "Press Release (May 21, 2007): Grant Gershon Joins LA Opera & Extends at LA Master Chorale" (PDF). Los Angeles Opera website. Retrieved 3 January 2008.
- Los Angeles Master Chorale Announces Grant Gershon Will Continue Leadership Role With Chorus Through 2019–2020 Season and Will Receive Title Change to Artistic Director, Reflecting His Expanded Vision of the Choral Experience, Published May 18, 2014
- Anne Midgette (December 16, 2005). "Surprises, Delicacies and Completions in a Year of Exciting Classical CD's". The New York Times.
- "Music". The Washington Post. December 30, 2005.
- Davidson, Justin (December 24, 2005). "The Best of 2005 Classical Music". Newsday.