Joseph Young Named Music Director of Berkeley Symphony

Janos Gereben on April 17, 2019
Joseph Young conducting the Berkeley Symphony in January | Credit: David S. Weiland

Berkeley Symphony Orchestra today named Joseph Young music director, beginning with the 2019–2020 season, for a three-year term. He succeeds the intendancy of Kent Nagano (1978-2008) and Joana Carneiro (2009–2018).

Three months ago, when a conductor who was to substitute for Carneiro canceled, Young came to the rescue and conducted Berkeley Symphony on a 48-hour notice, in a challenging program of a world premiere, Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, and Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes.

There is another significant local connection in Young’s career, a major factor in his current positions. As described by Mai Sennaar in Baltimore Art, Young was attending the Cabrillo Music Festival’s conducting workshop in Santa Cruz, led by Marin Alsop:

Not only did he learn from Alsop, but he also discovered his personal passion for conducting through her instruction and guidance. He asked her the question, that, in his own words, would change his life forever. “I said to her, I really want to do this for the rest of my life, what should I do?”

“Why don’t you come study with me?” she replied. The timing was perfect, as Alsop was in the process of developing a fellowship between the Peabody Conservatory and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Young would become the first-ever BSO-Peabody conducting fellow. Alsop would continue to be what Young refers to as one of his most supportive and impactful mentors.

Currently, Young is the Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg artistic director of ensembles at the Peabody Conservatory and resident conductor of the National Youth Orchestra (USA). From 2014 to 2017, he served as the assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony, where he conducted more than 50 concerts per season.

Joseph Young | Credit: Jeff Roffman

Young also served as the music director of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, resident conductor of the Phoenix Symphony, and the League of American Orchestras conducting fellow with Buffalo Philharmonic and Baltimore Symphony.

As guest conductor, Young has led the Saint Louis Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Colorado Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Bamberger Symphoniker, New World Symphony Orchestra, Spoleto Festival Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música, and the Orquesta Sinfonica y Coro de RTVE (Madrid), among others.

“Joseph’s rapport with the orchestra is so clear and so heartfelt,” said BSO Music Director Search Committee Chair Kathleen Henschel. “We are very fortunate that he could join us this season on such short notice, and it has been delightful getting to know him. He will be a strong presence in the community, and we look forward to working with him in the years to come.”

“I’m thrilled to be named the next music director of the Berkeley Symphony,” Young says. “From our first rehearsal, I felt a fantastic connection and chemistry with the musicians. I became immediately struck by the organization’s and community’s extraordinary history of innovation and energy.

Joseph Young | Credit: Jared Platt

“I am proud to become the leader of an orchestra with a celebrated past and high ambitions for the future. As we open a new musical chapter together, I look forward to strengthening the connections between the orchestra, Berkeley, and the greater Bay Area.”

“As a person and as an artist, Joseph embodies a rare humility that was evident as soon as he stepped on the podium for the first time,” says BSO Executive and Artistic Director René Mandel.

“There was an instant attraction that permeated throughout our entire family, both on and off the stage. Joseph is keenly aware of his role in our community and he will be an exemplary ambassador for the City of Berkeley and beyond. We are deeply honored to have Joseph leading Berkeley Symphony into our next era.”

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