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Teddy Abrams

Teddy Abrams named Musical America Conductor of the Year

Musical America has named Teddy Abrams—the galvanizing conductor now in his eighth season as Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra—Conductor of the Year. From his earliest days in Louisville, Teddy has been lauded for his efforts to connect the orchestra with the community at large, exemplified most recently by his musical responses to the global pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement, as well as creative initiatives like his rap-opera, The Greatest, honoring heavyweight champion and Louisville native Muhammad Ali. Teddy also serves as Music Director and Conductor of the Britt Festival Orchestra in Jacksonville, Oregon.

As a recipient of this prestigious award, he joins a long list of conducting luminaries that includes Marin Alsop, Jaap van Zweden, Gianandrea Noseda, Pablo Heras-Casado, Franz Welser-Möst, and Abrams’s own mentor, Michael Tilson Thomas.

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Early in the pandemic, Teddy redoubled his efforts to bring comfort through music to people across the city. He and the orchestra participated in “Lift Up Lou,” collaborating with Louisville’s mayor to offer Louisville residents “uplifting and engaging” live and shareable content as well as ideas to stay connected. Teddy brought together numerous Louisville-based musicians to record the collaborative song “Lift Up Louisville,” with proceeds benefiting the One Louisville COVID-19 Response Fund; played a series of one-man pop-up shows on his electronic keyboard in neighborhoods around the city; offered personal ten-minute online “comfort concerts” throughout the pandemic; and co-hosted the radio show “In This Together” on WUOL Classical Louisville. His indefatigable community engagement, not only during the pandemic but throughout his tenure, has received significant attention from national media, including a feature in Vogue that detailed the orchestra’s virtual season-opening concert honoring Breonna Taylor, and profiles on PBS’s Articulate show, the PBS Newshour and NPR.

In addition to conducting the Britt Festival Orchestra’s annual three-week festival of concerts, he has taken the orchestra across the region in the creation of new work—including Michael Gordon’s Natural History, which was premiered on the edge of Crater Lake National Park in partnership with the National Parks Service, and was the subject of the PBS documentary Symphony for Nature; and Pulitzer Prize-winning-composer Caroline Shaw’s Brush, an experiential work written to be performed this summer on the Jacksonville Woodlands Trail system.

Highlights of Teddy’s 2021-22 season include engagements with the Buffalo Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Pacific Symphony, and Sarasota Orchestra. He appears as a featured speaker at the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival. As a guest conductor, Teddy has worked with such distinguished ensembles as the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the San Francisco, National, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Vancouver, Colorado, Utah, and Phoenix Symphonies; Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; and the Florida Orchestra. Internationally, he has worked with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, and the Malaysian Philharmonic. He served as Assistant Conductor of the Detroit Symphony from 2012-2014. From 2008 to 2011, Abrams was the Conducting Fellow and Assistant Conductor of the New World Symphony.