Now launching his tenth 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 was recently appointed Artistic Director of the Eastern Sierra Symphony, a summer festival in Mammoth Lakes, California. 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 the 2016-2017 season, his final season as music director of the KWS, Outwater and the orchestra continue their groundbreaking Intersections concerts. This season, he explores the deep relationship between music and science in a collaboration with the Institute for Quantum Computing and cellist Johannes Moser. Other KWS highlights include a gala farewell concert with Measha Brueggergosman and Stewart Goodyear, and world premieres from Richard Reed Parry and Riho Esko Maimets. In his third season as Director of Summer Concerts at the SFS, an appointment that extends throughout the year, Outwater leads collaborations with vocalist Madeline Peyroux, pianist Makoto Ozone and others. As the only guest artist invited to curate a third consecutive season, Outwater returns to help lead the trailblazing series SoundBox in the SFS’s new nightclub-style performance space, and curates and conducts the Music for Families series.
This season, Outwater’s extensive guest-conducting schedule features returns to the New World and Chicago Symphonies, and three appearances with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. He also debuts with the Brussels Philharmonic, the Grant Park Festival, and the Montreux Jazz Festival, and appears at the Kennedy Center in their new music series led by composer Mason Bates. 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 is also featured 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.
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.