Adam Stern has been leading the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra since 2003. During his tenure he has brought several Northwest and West Coast premieres to the Puget Sound community. Stern’s unique programming combines beloved masterworks with must-hear rarities; programs presented by the Seattle Philharmonic are not merely concerts, but true musical events.
Stern was born in Hollywood in 1955. He began his musical studies at age five as a piano student, and began flute lessons two years later. At 15, Stern was accepted at California Institute of the Arts, where he initially majored in flute performance, but changed his major to conducting in his second year at the urging of the late Gerhard Samuel, a noted conductor and educator. Stern was graduated in 1977 with an MFA in conducting at 21, the youngest Masters degree recipient in CalArts’ history.
He has since put that degree to good use, and has been a guest-conductor with the Milwaukee Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Boulder Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble at Michigan State University, the Sacramento Symphony, Chamber Music Northwest in Portland and the New York Chamber Symphony.
Locally, Stern served as Associate Conductor at the Seattle Symphony from 1996 to 2001 and as Assistant Conductor from 1992 to 1996, conducting in all of the Symphony’s major concert series. He led the Seattle Symphony premieres of Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 3 and Elgar’s Symphony No. 2. In addition to conducting numerous classical concerts, Stern also made several ventures into the “pops” field, collaborating with such artists as James Taylor, Judy Collins, Art Garfunkel, Doc Severinsen and Frank Sinatra Jr.
Stern was also Music Director and Conductor of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra from 1994 to 2000, leading the orchestra in six of the most successful seasons in its history. As a composer, Stern has written for the concert hall and the stage. His official Opus 1, “Dance Variations”, was a prize-winning entry at the Delius Composition Competition in 1978. He has composed incidental music for productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “King Lear,” “The Winter’s Tale,” “Waiting for the Parade” and “Sweet Eros.” His score for “Richard III” earned him a Los Angeles Dramalogue Award for Best Original Score. Stern has composed four works for Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre: incidental scores for “The Red and the Black,” “Alki,” “The Pillowman” and “A Christmas Carol,” the latter score used every year since its 1996 premiere. Stern’s most recent work for the concert hall is Fanfare Pastorale, written for the SPO’s brass and percussion sections.
Stern is also an award-winning recording producer, having earned a Grammy as Classical Producer of the Year, principally for his recordings with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony.
Stern is also an enthusiastic and indefatigable music educator. He is currently an Adjunct Faculty member at Cornish College of the Arts, where he teaches composition, conducting and orchestral studies. He was the conductor of the orchestra at the Seattle Center Academy from 1993 until its final year (2008). From 2001 until 2009 he was Director of Instrumental Music at the Lakeside Upper School, where he introduced students to an unprecedented variety of music, from pre-Baroque to the late 20th century.
Venturing even further outside the mainstream classical world, Stern worked for two years as a music copyist for Frank Zappa, and appeared in the Richard Dreyfuss film “The Competition” as sour-faced pianist Mark Landau.
Stern joined the Seattle Phil as Music Director in 2003. He has brought excellence to the orchestra both in musical prowess and in programming. Encouraging a blend of classical masterpieces and obscure treasures, he and the Phil explore the full breadth of offerings from the orchestral repertoire.
In addition to his work with the Seattle Phil, Stern is the Music Director and Conductor of the Port Angeles Symphony.
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Emma McGrath, violin
Symphony No. 6 in b, "Pathétique"