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Marin Alsop

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Marin Alsop
Alsop, on the right, at a charity function in Baltimore in 2016
Background information
Born (1956-10-16) October 16, 1956 (age 67)
New York City, New York, U.S.

Marin Alsop (/ˈmærɪn ˈɔːlsəp/;[1][2] born October 16, 1956) is an American conductor, the first woman to win the Koussevitzky Prize for conducting and the first conductor to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She is music director laureate of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Ravinia Festival, and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008[3] and to the American Philosophical Society in 2020.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Alsop was born in New York City to Ruth E. (Condell) and Keith Lamar Alsop, both professional string players, and grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.[5] She was educated at the Masters School and studied violin at the Juilliard School's Pre-College Division, graduating in 1972. She attended Yale University as a mathematics major, but transferred to Juilliard, where she earned a Bachelor of Music (1977) and a Master of Music (1978) in violin.[6] While at Juilliard, Alsop played with orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet.[7]

Alsop was commencement speaker at Juilliard's 116th Commencement Ceremony on June 18, 2021 in Damrosch Park, where she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music.[5][8]


Early career[edit]

After failing three times to win admission to Juilliard's conducting program, Alsop founded the New York String Ensemble in 1981, the female jazz ensemble String Fever, and in 1984 Concordia, a 50-piece orchestra specializing in twentieth-century American music.[5][9] In 1983 she was concertmaster in a recording session of Philip Glass's chamber opera The Photographer.[10] In 1985, she played violin on the original Broadway cast recording of the musical Big River. She won the Koussevitzky Prize as outstanding student conductor at the Tanglewood Music Center in 1989, where she met her hero and future mentor Leonard Bernstein.[6] She was the first woman to win the prize.[6][11]

Cabrillo Festival, Colorado Symphony[edit]

Alsop was music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music from 1992 to 2016. From 1993 to 2005, she was first principal conductor and then music director of the Colorado Symphony; she was then named the orchestra's conductor laureate. Alsop also served as associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony in Richmond, Virginia, from 1988 to 1990, music director of the Eugene Symphony in Eugene, Oregon from 1989 to 1996, music director of the Long Island Philharmonic from 1990,[9] music director of the Oregon Festival of American Music from 1992 to 1996,[11] and Creative Conductor Chair for the St. Louis Symphony from 1994 to 1996. In 2002, she co-founded the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship, now the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship, for female conductors.[5][12] On September 20, 2005, Alsop became the first conductor ever to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.[13]

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra[edit]

In September 2005, Alsop was appointed the 12th music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, having been named music director designate for the 2006–2007 concert season. She was the first woman appointed to lead a major American orchestra. The appointment generated some controversy among orchestra members, who felt they had not been sufficiently consulted. Alsop successfully addressed their concerns.[5][14][15] In June 2009, the orchestra announced the extension of her contract for another five years, through August 2015.[16]

In July 2013, the BSO announced a further extension of her contract as music director through the 2020–2021 season.[17][18] In February 2020, the orchestra announced that Alsop would conclude her music directorship of the orchestra at the close of the 2020–2021 season and take the title of music director laureate.[19] She conducted a series of three farewell concerts in summer 2021.[5]

Alsop's initiatives with the BSO have included the Webumentary Film Series, a free iTunes podcast titled Clueless About Classical, and the OrchKids program, directed at underprivileged Baltimore children.[5] In August 2015, Alsop was appointed director of graduate conducting at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, succeeding one of her mentors, Gustav Meier.[20]

Additional US career[edit]

In 2020, the Ravinia Festival announced the appointment of Alsop as its inaugural chief conductor.[21] In February 2022, the Ravinia Festival announced the extension of Alsop's contract through 2025.[22] In January 2024, The Philadelphia Orchestra announced the appointment of Alsop as its next principal guest conductor, effective with the 2024-2025 season, with an initial contract of 3 seasons.[23]

Outside the US[edit]

Alsop with OSESP

In the UK, Alsop has served as principal guest conductor with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and with the City of London Sinfonia.[24] She was Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra[5] from 2002 to 2008, the first female principal conductor in the orchestra's history.[25] She was voted Gramophone magazine's Artist of the Year in 2003 and won the Royal Philharmonic Society's conductor's award in the same season.[6]

In April 2007, Alsop was one of eight conductors of British orchestras to endorse the 10-year classical music outreach manifesto "Building on Excellence: Orchestras for the 21st Century" that called for increasing the presence of classical music in the UK, including giving all British schoolchildren free entry to a classical music concert.[26] Alsop received an honorary degree of Doctor of Music from Bournemouth University on November 7, 2007. Alsop served as an Artist-in-Residence at the Southbank Centre, London, for the 2011–2012 season.[27] In 2013, she was the first woman to conduct at the Last Night of the Proms,[6] she returned in 2015 and again in 2023.[28]

In 2012, Alsop became principal conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (OSESP),[29][30][31] the first female principal conductor of OSESP. In July 2013, OSESP granted her the title of music director and in April 2015 extended her contract to the end of 2019.[32] Alsop led the orchestra on a European tour, including its first appearance at the Proms in August 2012,[33] the first Proms appearance by any Brazilian orchestra. They returned to Europe in October 2013, with concerts in Berlin, London, Paris, Salzburg and Vienna [34] and to the Proms in August 2016. In December 2017, OSESP announced that Alsop would stand down as its music director in December 2019 and take the title of honorary conductor.[35]

In 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2016, Alsop conducted the Belgian National Orchestra at the Queen Elisabeth Competition. On 7 September 2013, Alsop became the first female conductor of the Last Night of The Proms, and returned to conduct the Last Night on 12 September 2015.[36] On 4 September 2014, at the Proms, she was awarded Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society.[37] In 2014, Alsop first guest-conducted the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra; in September 2019, she became the orchestra's first female chief conductor.[5][38] Alsop was a recipient of one of the 25th Annual Crystal Awards for 2019 at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.[39] Since 2020, she has been artist in residence at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna.[40] In June 2023, the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra announce the appointment of Alsop as its next artistic director and chief conductor, the first female conductor named to the posts, effective with the 2023–2024 season.[41]

Personal life[edit]

Since 1990, Kristin Jurkscheit, a horn player, has been Alsop's partner; they have a son.[42][43][44] While Alsop was conducting the Colorado Symphony, of which her partner was a member, their relationship provoked controversy; Alsop responded that the relationship predated her appointment to lead the orchestra and had no bearing on her job performance.[15]


Alsop conducted her first recording in 2000 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in a selection of works by Samuel Barber, which was released as part of the American Classics Series on Naxos Records.[45] This disc was followed by four more released between 2001 and 2004 dedicated to the works of Samuel Barber. In 2003, she released her first disc of Leonard Bernstein, recorded with the Bournemouth SO and Chorus. Following this, in 2005, Alsop's fully staged production of Bernstein's Candide with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra was nominated for an Emmy Award (DVD: PBS Great Performances/Image Entertainment).

In June 2006, Alsop conducted the BSO and violinist Joshua Bell in John Corigliano's violin concerto The Red Violin, recorded by Sony Classics and released in September 2007.[46] She and the BSO made their first-ever live recording release for iTunes of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.[47] Following her advent to the Baltimore post, one of her first projects as music director was a series of recordings of Dvořák for Naxos. The first disc in the series, featuring Symphony No. 9, From the New World, and Symphonic Variations, was released in February 2008,[48] and was nominated for BBC Music Magazine’s 2008 Album of the Year.

Other recordings by Alsop with Naxos include a Johannes Brahms symphony cycle with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (the first commercially recorded Brahms symphony cycle by a female conductor), and a continuing series of Bournemouth SO recordings, which include Bartók's The Miraculous Mandarin, Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and the symphonies of Kurt Weill.[49]

In 2009, Alsop released a recording of Leonard Bernstein's Mass with the BSO that earned a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Album.[50] In 2010, her recording of Jennifer Higdon’s Percussion Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and soloist Colin Currie won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.[51][52]

Other recent releases include Dvořák symphonies No. 7 & No. 8 with the BSO,[53] Nixon in China,[54] and works by Roy Harris, Aaron Copland, and Barber, all on the Naxos label. In 2012, Alsop and the BSO released a recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1, also on Naxos.[55]

Honors and achievements[edit]

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2003 Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra) Barber: Violin Concerto, Op. 14, A Scene From Shelley, etc. Nominated [56]
2005 Best Spoken Word Album for Children The Story of Classical Music Nominated [57]
2008 Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra) Daugherty: UFO Nominated [58]
2010 Best Classical Album Bernstein: Mass Nominated

Emmy Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2005 Outstanding Special Class Program Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" in Concert (Great Performances) Nominated [59]

Other awards[edit]

Year Award Ref.
2010 Induction, American Classical Music Hall of Fame [60]


  1. ^ "Marin Alsop Appointed NOI+F's First-Ever Music Director". The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. October 1, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  2. ^ "Marin Alsop reveals 10 things in a conductor's brain during a symphony concert". Classic FM. May 26, 2022. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  3. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 15, 2011.
  4. ^ "The American Philosophical Society Welcomes New Members for 2020". American Philosophical Society.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tommasini, Anthony (June 11, 2021). "A Trailblazing Female Conductor Is Still Alone on the Trail". The New York Times. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e Bignell, Paul (August 18, 2013). "Marin Alsop: First Lady of the Last Night of the Proms". The Independent. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  7. ^ "Official website for conductor Marin Alsop". Marin Alsop. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  8. ^ "The Juilliard School Awards Honorary Doctorates". The Violin Channel. April 14, 2021. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  9. ^ a b Crafts, Fred (November 14, 1991). "Her Path to the Podium : Music: Years of frustration will be swept aside when Marin Alsop conducts the L.A. Philharmonic tonight". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  10. ^ Wigmore, Richard (February 2, 2002). "Alsop, Marin". Oxford Music Online.
  11. ^ a b Lane, Barbara Kaplan (December 13, 1992). "Marin Alsop Wielding a Powerful Baton". The New York Times. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  12. ^ "Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship". Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  13. ^ "MacArthur Fellows Program: Marin Alsop". MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  14. ^ Grossman, Lev (July 25, 2005). "A Symphony of Her Own". Time. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved September 7, 2007.
  15. ^ a b Wakin, Daniel J. (October 9, 2005). "Best Wishes on Your Job. Now Get Out". New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2007.
  16. ^ Midgette, Anne (June 5, 2009). "Baltimore Symphony Extends Music Director's Contract to 2015". Washington Post. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
  17. ^ "Marin Alsop Extends Contract as Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Through the 2020-2021 Season" (PDF) (Press release). Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. July 24, 2013. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  18. ^ Smith, Tim (July 25, 2013). "Marin Alsop renews Baltimore Symphony contract through 2021". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  19. ^ "Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Music Director Marin Alsop to Conclude 14-Year Tenure with 2020-21 Season" (Press release). Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. February 26, 2020. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  20. ^ Smith, Tim (August 28, 2015). "BSO's Marin Alsop to direct graduate conducting program at Peabody". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  21. ^ Reich, Howard (February 5, 2020). "Conductor Marin Alsop takes major post at Ravinia". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  22. ^ "Ravinia extends Chief Conductor Marin Alsop's contract for three years, through 2025" (PDF) (Press release). Ravinia Festival. February 10, 2022. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  23. ^ "Marin Alsop Appointed Principal Guest Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra" (Press release). The Philadelphia Orchestra. January 9, 2024. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  24. ^ Norris, Geoffrey (March 22, 2001). "Beating time and space on the way to the top". The Telegraph. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  25. ^ "'I don't need to be liked, I'd rather be respected'". The Times. February 9, 2007. Archived from the original on May 17, 2011. Retrieved September 8, 2007.
  26. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (April 26, 2007). "Orchestras urge free concerts for children". The Guardian. Retrieved September 8, 2007.
  27. ^ "Southbank Centre Classical Music 2011_12 Season" (PDF). Southbank Centre Press Release notes. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 10, 2015. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  28. ^ "Marin Alsop conducts The Last Night Of The Proms, including two World Premieres, closing an extraordinary summer of music making". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved September 26, 2023.
  29. ^ De Menezes, Maria Eugênia (February 11, 2011). "Osesp anuncia nova regente". O Estado de S. Paulo. Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  30. ^ Clark, Andrew (July 20, 2012). "You have to be strong". Financial Times. Archived from the original on December 11, 2022. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  31. ^ Moss, Stephen (August 14, 2012). "How Marin Alsop plans to put São Paulo Orchestra on the map". The Guardian. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  32. ^ "Marin Alsop renews contract with São Paulo Symphony Orchestra". Gramophone. April 15, 2015. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  33. ^ Clements, Andrew (August 16, 2012). "Prom 45: São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/Alsop – review (Royal Albert Hall, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  34. ^ Fairman, Richard (October 28, 2013). "São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall, London – review". Financial Times. Archived from the original on December 11, 2022. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  35. ^ Sampaio, João Luiz (December 6, 2017). "Marin Alsop será regente de honra da Osesp a partir de 2020". Estadão. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  36. ^ "The 2015 BBC Proms season is announced". Gramophone. April 23, 2015. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  37. ^ "RPS - Royal Philharmonic Society - Honorary membership for Marin Alsop - News - About Us". royalphilharmonicsociety.org.uk. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  38. ^ "Marin Alsop appointed new Chief Conductor of the Vienna RSO" (Press release). Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. January 29, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  39. ^ "Davos 2019: Meet the Crystal Award winners" (Press release). Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. December 10, 2018. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  40. ^ "Dirigentin Marin Alsop tritt Residency an der mdw an" (Press release). University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. March 6, 2020. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  41. ^ "Marin Alsop – NOSPR new Artistic Director and Chief Conductor" (Press release). Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. June 5, 2023. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  42. ^ Dalton, Joseph (August 10, 2008). "Marin Alsop to conduct Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC". Times Union.
  43. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (November 11, 2007). "A One-Woman Vanguard". The New York Times. Retrieved June 26, 2010.
  44. ^ Smith, Tim (June 11, 2010). "Alsop cements relationship with BSO, community". The Baltimore Sun.
  45. ^ Alsop, Marin (October 29, 2010). "Building A Career On Barber, The Enigmatic American". NPR. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  46. ^ Anderson, Porter (September 5, 2007). "The Red Violin sings again". CNN. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  47. ^ Smith, Tim (March 19, 2007). "SO recording makes iPod hit parade". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  48. ^ Alsop, Marin (April 18, 2008). "Dvorak's Symphonic Journey to the 'New World'". NPR. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  49. ^ Cowan, Rob (June 2005). "Bartók (The) Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19". Gramophone. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  50. ^ Smith, Tim (December 3, 2009). "Baltimore Symphony recording of Bernstein's 'Mass' gets Grammy nomination". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  51. ^ Nicholson, David (October 26, 2010). "Virginia Symphony presents Higdon's percussion concerto". Daily Press. Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  52. ^ Dunkle, David N. (February 2, 2010). "Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon scores a Grammy". The Patriot-News. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  53. ^ "Dvorák: Symphonies 7 & 8". BBC Music Magazine. January 20, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  54. ^ Picard, Anna (January 20, 2012). "Adams: Nixon in China". BBC Music Magazine. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  55. ^ Ashley, Tim (October 11, 2012). "Mahler: Symphony No 1 – review". The Guardian. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  56. ^ "45th Annual Grammy Award Nominations". Variety. January 7, 2003. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  57. ^ "Grammy Award nominees in top categories". USA Today. Gannett Company. February 7, 2005. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012.
  58. ^ "48th Grammy® Awards Nominees Coverage". DigitalHit. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  59. ^ "Nominees/Winners | Television Academy". Emmys.com. Retrieved August 4, 2016.
  60. ^ "Alsop, Marin". American Classical Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 18, 2024.

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by Music Director, Colorado Symphony (Denver Symphony)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Principal Conductor, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by Principal Conductor, São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief Conductor, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief Conductor, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by