Rebecca & Jack Benaroya Conductor Laureate
Internationally recognized for his moving performances, innovative programming and extensive catalogue of recordings, American conductor Gerard Schwarz serves as Music Director of the All Star Orchestra, an ensemble comprised of musicians from America's leading orchestras who will collaborate in a public television series designed to encourage a greater understanding and enjoyment of classical music. He is Music Director of the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina and Conductor Laureate of the Seattle Symphony.
With more than 300 world premieres to his credit, Schwarz has always felt strongly about commissioning and performing new music. As Music Director of the Eastern Music Festival, that focus continues with numerous world premieres, including one of his own works. During Schwarz’s tenure, he has expanded the Festival's audiences to the largest in its history, incorporated a composer in residence program, developed three new concert series and increased collaboration with the Appalachian Summer Festival.
A prolific recording artist, Schwarz has a total discography that numbers nearly 350 on more than 11 labels. His pioneering cycles of American symphonists such as William Schuman, David Diamond and Howard Hanson have received high critical praise, as have his acclaimed series of Stravinsky ballets; symphony cycles of Robert Schumann, Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich; and orchestral works of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Rimsky-Korsakov. More than 50 discs featuring Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony — with works by 54 composers ranging from the Baroque to contemporary periods — will be released in 2012 and 2013 on four labels. In addition to his numerous recordings with the Seattle Symphony, he has also recorded with the Berlin Radio Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, English Chamber Orchestra, Juilliard Orchestra, London Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Symphony, New York Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Tokyo Philharmonic.
A sought-after guest conductor, Schwarz has led many of the world’s greatest orchestras.
He is also known for his operatic performances, having appeared with the Juilliard Opera, Kirov Opera, Mostly Mozart Festival, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera and Washington National Opera. He has led 21 productions with the Seattle Opera.
A graduate of The Juilliard School, Schwarz joined the New York Philharmonic in 1972 as Co-Principal Trumpet, a position he held until 1977. Schwarz’s numerous previous positions include Music Director of New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Music Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and Music Director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and New York Chamber Symphony.
Schwarz, a renowned interpreter of 19th-century German, Austrian and Russian repertoire, in addition to his noted work with contemporary American composers, recently completed his final season as music director of the Seattle Symphony in 2011 after an acclaimed 26 years — a period of dramatic artistic growth for the ensemble. While at the Symphony, Maestro Schwarz amassed a critically acclaimed discography of more than 140 recordings, and recorded numerous television programs and concert broadcasts. He was instrumental in the building of Benaroya Hall, and the implementation of music education programs including new series and the successful Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center. During his tenure, ticket sales increased dramatically.
In his nearly five decades as a respected classical musician and conductor, Schwarz has received hundreds of honors and accolades including two Emmy Awards, 13 Grammy nominations, six ASCAP Awards and numerous Stereo Review and Ovation Awards. He holds the Ditson Conductor’s Award from Columbia University, was the first American named Conductor of the Year by Musical America and has received numerous honorary doctorates. Most recently, the City of Seattle recognized his outstanding achievements and named the street alongside the Benaroya Hall “Gerard Schwarz Place,” and the State of Washington gave him the honorary title of “General” for his extraordinary contributions as an artist and citizen.