With her appointment as the 10th Music Director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra beginning in 11/12, Carolyn Kuan’s reputation as a skilled interpreter and impressive podium presence is recognizable on a national level. Ms. Kuan has also enjoyed long and successful associations with top tier orchestras, opera companies, ballet companies, and festivals worldwide, and continues to distinguish herself as a conductor of extraordinary versatility. Ms. Kuan’s commitment to contemporary music, both at home in Hartford and as a guest conductor, has defined her approach to programming, and established her as an international resource for new music and world premieres.
Ms. Kuan begins the 13/14 Season by stepping in for Marin Alsop at the Campos do Jordao Music Festival in Brazil, to lead performances of Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Jennifer Koh, and Stravinsky Rite of Spring. She also stepped in to open the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, conducting two programs to rave reviews that included world and west coast premiers. In September, she returns to the New York City Ballet to conduct performances of The Four Temperaments and Symphony in Three Movements. In addition to her weeks with the Hartford Symphony, other highlights include her debut with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra at the Perth International Arts Festival and with Santa Fe Opera in the world premiere of Huang Ruo’s opera, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen.
Highlights in the 12/13 Season included a return engagement with the Detroit Symphony, a Chicago Symphony multimedia Beyond the Score presentation with the Colorado Music Festival, her Concertgebouw debut with Residentie Orkest attended by Queen Beatrix, as well as a highly acclaimed two-week debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the New Creations Festival, where Ms. Kuan lead world and Canadian premiers.
While maintaining a solid connection with traditional repertoire, Ms. Kuan has cultivated a unique expertise in Asian music and contemporary works. From 2007 to 2012, Ms. Kuan directed the annual San Francisco Symphony Chinese New Year Concert. For the Seattle Symphony, Ms. Kuan helped launched the hugely successful Celebrate Asia! program with community leaders representing eight Asian cultures, and led sold out performances for three consecutive years. She has led world premiers for Music from Japan, and has conducted multimedia productions of the Butterfly Lovers Concerto and A Monkey’s Tale as part of Detroit Symphony’s World Music Series.
From 2003 to 2012, Ms. Kuan worked closely with the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and visiting composers. Some of Ms. Kuan’s finest successes have bridged the gap between cultural and social issues, as in her work raising awareness of conservation and the environment through her performances around the globe of the multimedia project Life: A Journey Through Time. Developed by the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and music director Marin Alsop, the project features music by Philip Glass and images by famed National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting. Ms. Kuan’s notable performances of Life include a presentation at the 9th World Wilderness Congress with Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatan, at the 8 Days in June CHANGE is POWERFUL festival with the Detroit Symphony, and at CERN’s historical Large Hadron Collider Inauguration, with Orchestre de la Suisse Romande attended by Swiss President Pascal Couchepin, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, more than 20 other European heads of state, and dozens of Nobel laureates.
Ms. Kuan’s recent North America engagements have included performances with the Baltimore, San Francisco, Detroit, Seattle, Milwaukee symphonies; the Florida and Louisville orchestras; the New York City Ballet; Colorado Music Festival; and the New York City Opera. Recent international engagements have included concerts with the Bournemouth Symphony, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Hong Kong Philharmonic, National Symphony of Taiwan, Residentie Orkest, Orquesta Sinfónica de Yucatán, Royal Danish Ballet and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Carolyn Kuan’s past associations include Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Artist-in-Residence at the New York City Ballet and Assistant Conductor for the Baltimore Opera Company. In her debut album released in January 2012, Ms. Kuan conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for the Naxos label.
The recipient of numerous awards, she holds the distinction of being the first female to be awarded the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship by the Herbert von Karajan Centrum and American Austrian Foundation in 2003, which resulted in her residency at the 2004 Salzburg Festival. Winner of the first Taki Concordia Fellowship, she has received additional awards from the Women’s Philharmonic, Conductors Guild and Susan W. Rose Fund for Music. Ms. Kuan graduated cum laude from Smith College, received a Master of Music from the University of Illinois and a Performance Diploma from the Peabody Conservatory.