Now launching his ninth season as Music Director of Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (KWS), Edwin Outwater also serves as Director of Summer Concerts at the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and regularly guest conducts the Chicago and New World Symphonies. An ardent champion of new music and cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration, he is a visionary programmer with a gift for bringing context to the concert hall. Equally adept at interpreting canonical masterworks, premiering new commissions, and connecting audiences with repertoire beyond the mainstream, the American conductor is, as San Francisco Classical Voice notes, “headed for a top-tier future.”
In 2015-16, which marks the KWS’s 70th anniversary season, Outwater and the orchestra continue their groundbreaking Intersections series celebrating the intimate relationship between music and geometry, collaborating with award-winning Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq and premiering Scott Good’s newly commissioned score to silent horror classic The Hands of Orlac. Other KWS highlights include a complete Beethoven concerto cycle with pianist Stewart Goodyear; a world premiere from Owen Pallett; and Die Fledermaus in concert. In his second season as Director of Summer Concerts at the SFS, an appointment that extends throughout the year, Outwater leads collaborations with My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden and Grammy Award-winners Angelique Kidjo and SFS principal trumpet Mark Inouye, in repertoire ranging from Beethoven and Rachmaninoff to new music by Bryce Dessner, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and David Lang. As the only guest artist invited to curate a second consecutive season, Outwater returns to help lead the trailblazing series SoundBox in the SFS’s new nightclub-style performance space; collaborates with pianist Stephen Hough; and curates and conducts the Music for Families series. Spanning three continents, his extensive guest-conducting schedule features returns to the Chicago and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphonies, accounts of Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw’s new violin concerto with the Indianapolis and North Carolina Symphonies, and a trio of programs with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBCNOW).
Last season at the KWS, Outwater reprised Quantum: Music at the Frontier of Science, a visionary exploration of music and theoretical physics, at the Ontario Scene festival during the orchestra’s first full tour in two decades. Breaking new ground, Outwater and the KWS partnered with the local tech community for Hack the Orchestra, the world’s first orchestral hackathon. He led the KWS in Intersections, including collaborations with Chinese pipa virtuoso Lan Weiwei, video artist Tess Girard, and novelists Wayne Grady and Miriam Toews, and at the SFS, Outwater launched his new post as Director of Summer Concerts, rang in the New Year in a concert featuring vocalists Seth MacFarlane and Measha Brueggergosman, and conducted and co-curated the Farther Out program in the inaugural season of SoundBox, which debuted to sold-out houses. Outwater also led multiple programs with the Chicago Symphony, and subscription concerts with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Milwaukee and North Carolina Symphonies, where he showcased new American music by Timo Andres, Mason Bates, and Derek Bermel. Outwater’s conducting may be heard on two 2014-15 releases: Expanded, which captures his Barbican Centre debut with These New Puritans, and Sarah Kirkland Snider’s highly anticipated album Unremembered.
In the United States, Outwater has conducted the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as symphony orchestras including Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New World, and Seattle. In Canada, he has led the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the symphonies of Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Victoria. International appearances include the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony, Kyoto Symphony, BBCNOW, the New Zealand Symphony, Adelaide Symphony, Malmö Symphony, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, Mexico City Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa, and Hong Kong Sinfonietta. In 2009, Outwater made his professional opera debut conducting La traviata at the San Francisco Opera, and he has since led productions at Cincinnati Opera and New York’s Lincoln Center. He participated as Associate Conductor in both YouTube Symphony projects, at Carnegie Hall and at the Sydney Opera House. He also led the performances for From Here On Out, the KWS’s 2011 Analekta release of music by Muhly, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, a recording for which NPR Music praised Outwater for guiding “dexterous performances by musicians who play the music like they own it.”
Outwater was Resident Conductor of the SFS from 2001-06, where he worked closely with Michael Tilson Thomas, accompanied the orchestra on tour, conducted numerous concerts each season, and collaborated with such artists as Kurt Masur, Yo-Yo Ma, and Evelyn Glennie. He twice substituted for Tilson Thomas, and in 2006 premiered and recorded The Composer is Dead by Nathaniel Stookey and Lemony Snicket, which was subsequently released by HarperCollins and has become one of the most-performed works written in the 21st century. In 2008, his SFS recording of music by Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate was released to wide acclaim.
From 2001-05, Outwater was the Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, leading all its concerts and a 2004 European tour, when the orchestra made debuts at Vienna’s Musikverein and Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, besides returning to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Before joining the SFS, Outwater served as Resident Conductor and Associate Guest Conductor of the Florida Philharmonic, Associate Conductor of the Festival-Institute at Round Top in Texas, Principal Conductor of the Adriatic Chamber Music Festival in Molise, Italy, and Assistant Conductor of the Tulsa Philharmonic.
Outwater’s work in music education and community outreach is justly celebrated. In 2004 his education programs at the SFS received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming, and his Chinese New Year Program won the MET LIFE award for community outreach. In Kitchener-Waterloo, Outwater redesigned the orchestra’s education series and initiated myriad community connections. At the SFS, he conducted Family Concerts; Adventures in Music performances, heard by more than 25,000 students from San Francisco schools each year; and Concerts for Kids, which reaches students throughout Northern California. In Florida, Outwater designed the Florida Philharmonic Family Series and its Music for Youth program, heard annually by more than 40,000 fifth-grade students in South Florida. He appears frequently with training orchestras and at music festivals worldwide, including the New World Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the National Music Camp of Australia, National Youth Orchestra of New Zealand, Music Academy of the West, National Orchestral Institute, Festival-Institute at Round Top, and New York’s Mannes Conservatory Orchestra. Outwater has served as Music Director of the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony and on the faculties of the University of Tulsa, Idyllwild Arts Academy, and University of California, Santa Barbara.
A native of Santa Monica, California, Edwin Outwater graduated cum laude in English literature from Harvard University, where he was music director of the Bach Society Orchestra and the a cappella group Harvard Din and Tonics, and wrote the music for the 145th annual production of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals. He received his master’s in conducting from UC Santa Barbara, where he studied with Heiichiro Ohyama and Paul Polivnick, besides studying music theory and composition with John Stewart, Joel Feigin, and Leonard Stein.
© 21C Media Group, September 2012