Gustav Meier (13 August 1929 – 26 May 2016) was a Swiss-born conductor and director of the Orchestra Conducting Program at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. He was also Music Director of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra in Connecticut, for more than 40 years (1972–2013).
Gustav Meier has earned international acclaim as both an exceptional conductor and a truly gifted teacher. After graduating from the Zurich Conservatory, the Swiss-born conductor continued his studies at the Academia Chigiana Siena. He began his career at the Lucerne Opera, followed by several seasons at the Vienna Chamber Opera and the Zurich Opera. In this country his opera talents were quickly recognized, as he was soon conducting at the New York, Santa Fe, Miami, Minnesota, San Francisco Operas and others.
He has led orchestras around the globe including appearances with the Zurich Tonhalle, São Paulo, China National, Pittsburgh, Colorado and Alabama Symphony Orchestras; New York City, Santa Fe, Miami, San Francisco, Zurich, and Minnesota Opera Companies; and the Budapest and Vienna State Opera Orchestras. His innovative artistic direction has earned Meier critical praises in this country and abroad. Productions which received nationwide coverage included Stravinsky Rake's Progress in which he collaborated with the film director Rober Altman (M.A.S.H., Nashville, The Players), William Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and Experience, which he conducted in Ann Arbor (American premiere) and at Chicago's Grant Park, and André Previn's All Good Boys Deserve Favour, a play by Tom Stoppard set for actors and symphony orchestra.
Meier received his musical diploma from the Zurich Conservatory, Switzerland. He has served on the faculties of Yale University (1960–1973) where he became the youngest full-time professor in the school's history, the Eastman School of Music (1973–1976), and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (1976–1995). He has also served on the faculty of the Tanglewood Music Center from 1980 to 1996 where he spent the summers overseeing Tanglewood's prestigious Conducting Seminar. The program selected the "absolute cream" of international students according to André Previn, a frequent guest in Meier's classes, along with the late Leonard Bernstein. Meier's original connection with Tanglewood dates to 1957 and 1958 when he himself was chosen as a conducting fellow and won top prizes. Meier was a member of one of the most remarkable conducting classes in the Tanglewood Music Center's history, one that included Claudio Abbado, Zubin Mehta and David Zinman. He regularly taught conducting master classes across North America, Europe and Asia.
Meier's regular conducting engagements include several that span decades. From 1978 to 2006, Gustav Meier was Music Director and Conductor of the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra in Lansing, MI. Upon retiring from this position after 28 seasons, he was given the honor of Music Director Emeritus. The 2012-2013 season, his 41st season as Music Director of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony in Bridgeport, Connecticut, was his last season there. He served as Director of the Graduate Conducting Program at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland.
Conducting workshops took him to all corners of the world such as Vancouver, Canada, Cabrillo, California, New York City, Beijing, China, Prague, Czech Republic and Sofia, Bulgaria.
His students have appeared with every major orchestra and opera company in the United States and abroad, some currently serving as music directors of illustrious musical institutions. They include the late Yakov Kreizberg (First Prize Stokowski Competition Winner, Music Director Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Netherlands Philharmonic and Principal Conductor Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra); John Mauceri (Music Director American Symphony Orchestra, Washington Opera, Scottish Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Teatro Regio di Torino and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra) Marin Alsop (Music Director Baltimore Symphony and Cabrillo Festival), the first woman to be named music director of a major U.S. orchestra; Alexander Frey (Music Director Rome Philharmonic Orchestra, Berliner Ensemble, Bohemia Symphony Orchestra, Stern Chamber Orchestra); Carl St. Clair (Music Director Komische Oper Berlin and Pacific Symphony Orchestra); Antonio Pappano (Music Director Royal Opera Covent Garden and Orchestra Nazionale di Santa Cecilia); Rico Saccani (First Prize Karajan Competition Winner and Music Director Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra); Jun Markle (Music Director of the Mannheim National Theater and Lyon National Symphony Orchestra); Bundit Ungransee (Co-First Prize Winner Lorin Maazel Conducting competition and Principal Guest Conductor Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra); Mark Gibson (Orchestra and Opera Director of Cincinnati Conservatory); Benjamin Loeb (Director International Workshop and Festival) Jordan Randall Smith (Music Director of Symphony Number One); and, of course, Bobby McFerrin (various Orchestras including Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra). Other students have won first prizes in prestigious conducting competitions: the Karajan in Berlin, Stokowski and Lorin Maazel competitions in New York City, the First International Eduardo Mata Conducting Competition in Mexico City, the Mario Gusella International Competition in Pecara, Italy, and the Sergei Prokofiev Conducting Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Awards and honors
- 1982: Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
- 1988: Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award, Harvard University
- 1995: Ditson Conductor's Award from Columbia University
- 1999: Max Rudolf Award, Conductors Guild of America
- 1999: Doctor of Laws, Honorary Degree from Fairfield University
- 2003: Doctor of Music, Honorary Degree from Kalamazoo College
- 2005: Doctor of Fine Arts, Honorary Degree from Michigan State University
- The Score, the Orchestra and the Conductor (Oxford University Press, 2009)
- School of Music, Theatre & Dance Programs
- Renowned Conducting Teacher Has Died
- Johns Hopkins. Peabody Institute. Gustav Meier – Director of the Graduate Conducting Program
- GBS' Maestro Meier to retire at the close of the 2012–13 season. By Phyllis A.S. Boros., September 25, 2012.
- Greater Bridgeport Symphony website. GBS History. The GBS Legacy of Maestro Gustav Meier
- Columbia's Ditson Award Won by Gustav Meier. October 10, 1995.
- Meier to give farewell concert; shares podium with students. By Sarah Zaslaw. April 17, 1995.
- Gustav Meier. Polyphonic.org
- Recipients of Distinguished Faculty Achievement Awards
- Oxford University Press. The Score, the Orchestra, and the Conductor. Gustav Meier