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Alastair Willis, Conductor

Grammy nominated conductor ALASTAIR WILLIS is the newly appointed Music Director of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.

“The music (Strauss Till Eulenspiegel) describing the life and gallows death of a legendary trickster, is full of theatrical gestures, and Willis savored every one of them.  For all his attention to detail — and his accurate rendering of tempo indications that are often fudged — this was also a red-blooded, impetuous and deliciously over-the-top performance.”

Mike Greenberg,
San Antonio Express News

In past seasons, Willis has guest conducted orchestras around the world including the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Mexico City Philharmonic, Orquestra Sinfonica de Rio de Janeiro, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonic, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, China National Orchestra (Beijing), and Silk Road Ensemble (with Yo-Yo Ma) among others. His recording of Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les Sortileges” with Nashville Symphony and Opera for Naxos was Grammy nominated for Best Classical Album in 2009.

Willis recently completed a successful four-year tenure as Music Director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. Last season he was re-engaged by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, Victoria Symphony B.C., North Carolina Symphony, Dresden Philharmonic, Orquestra Sinfonica Barra Mansa, Symphonia Boca Raton, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Orchestra Seattle/Seattle Chamber Singers, and made his debuts with the Wichita Symphony, Boise Philharmonic, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, South Bend Symphony Orchestra and Roosevelt Contemporary Ensemble. This season he returns to Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boca Raton Symphonia, and makes his debut with Philharmonie Südwestfalen.

“Physically expressive, Willis challenged the orchestra, demanding — and getting — exceptionally focused attention to phrasing.  Friday’s sound was anything but “as usual,” the texture less blended than mosaic, each line standing out clearly.”

Ruth Bingham,
Honolulu Advertiser

Previous positions include Principal Guest Conductor with the Florida Orchestra’s Coffee Concert series 2008-2011, Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony 2000-2003, Assistant Conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, and Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Born in Acton, Massachusetts, Willis lived with his family in Moscow for five years before settling in Surrey, England. He received his bachelor’s degree with honors from England’s Bristol University, an Education degree from Kingston University, and a Masters of Music degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Updated May 2017