Kedrick Armstrong
Kedrick Armstrong conducts the Oakland Symphony | Credit: Scott Chernis

After a two-year search to fill the shoes of Michael Morgan, the Oakland Symphony has announced his successor as music director: Kedrick Armstrong. The conductor, 29, hails from Georgetown, South Carolina, and is currently creative partner and principal conductor of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony. He graduated from Wheaton College with a bachelor’s degree in music history and literature and holds a master’s in orchestral conducting from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Armstrong is having a breakout moment. In February 2023, he conducted the premiere of The Factotum, starring Will Liverman, at Lyric Opera of Chicago. He was named one of The Washington Post’s “22 for ’22: composers and performers to watch.” He’s fronted outreach programs for Lyric Opera, the Ravinia Festival, and Chicago Sinfonietta. He’s also had a fellowship at the American Music Research Center at CU Boulder, studying Black female composers. He’s an alum of Chicago Sinfonietta’s Freeman (formerly Project Inclusion) Conducting Fellowship and was assistant conductor with the orchestra during the 2018–2019 season. He’s also assisted at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and guest conducted at Chicago Opera Theater.

Kedrick Armstrong
Kedrick Armstrong | Credit: Scott Chernis

For the Oakland Symphony this year, Armstrong conducted a Feb. 16 concert featuring the premiere of Carlos Simon’s oratorio Here I Stand, Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 6, and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. Reviewing for SFCV, Jeff Rosenfeld wrote, “Armstrong’s energy made a visible and audible impact as he rocked, swayed, bowed, bent, and leaned into the orchestra. … [Shostakovich’s] symphony was wrenching in its anguish but also punchy and mighty. In performance and in the preconcert interview, Armstrong seemed irrepressibly involved. He is also a musical activist of the highest order and in the best sense.”

Following in the tradition of Morgan and Calvin Simmons, the Oakland Symphony will be highly interested in Armstrong’s activism and his skill as a mentor and communicator. Mieko Hatano, the orchestra’s executive director, announced the hiring saying, “The committee was overwhelmed by Kedrick’s scholarship and curiosity about all kinds of music. … His programming is innovative and reflects his commitment to including underrepresented composers, works, and artists, which speaks directly to the Symphony’s mission. … His commitment to community and music education comes through in everything he does, in everyone he meets.”

Armstrong will conduct his first concert as music director on Oct. 18.