Jader Bignamini was introduced as the 18th music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in January 2020, commencing with the 2020–2021 season. He kicked off his tenure as DSO Music Director with the launch of DSO Digital Concerts in September 2020, conducting works by Copland, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, and Saint-Georges. His infectious passion and artistic excellence set the tone for the season ahead, creating extraordinary music and establishing a close relationship with the orchestra. A jazz aficionado, he has immersed himself in Detroit’s rich jazz culture and the influences of American music.
A native of Crema, Italy, Bignamini studied at the Piacenza Music Conservatory and began his career as a musician (clarinet) with Orchestra Sinfonica La Verdi in Milan, later serving as the group’s resident conductor. Captivated by the works of legends like Mahler and Tchaikovsky, Bignamini explored their complexity and power, puzzling out the role that each instrument played in creating a larger-than-life sound. When he conducted his first professional concert at the age of 28, it didn’t feel like a departure, but an arrival.
In the years since, Bignamini has conducted some of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras and opera companies in venues across the globe including working with Riccardo Chailly on concerts of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in 2013 and his concert debut at La Scala in 2015 for the opening season of La Verdi Orchestra. Recent highlights include debuts with Opera de Paris conducting La Forza del Destino and with Deutsche Opera Berlin conducting Simon Boccanegra; appearances with the Pittsburgh and Toronto symphonies; debuts with the Houston, Dallas, and Minnesota symphonies; Osaka Philharmonic and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo; with the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, and Dutch National Opera (Madama Butterfly); Bayerische Staatsoper (La Traviata); I Puritani in Montpellier for the Festival of Radio France; Traviata in Tokyo directed by Sofia Coppola; return engagements with Oper Frankfurt (La forza del destino) and Santa Fe Opera (La bohème); Manon Lescaut at the Bolshoi; Traviata, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot at Arena of Verona; Il Trovatore and Aida at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera; Madama Butterfly, I Puritani, and Manon Lescaut at Teatro Massimo in Palermo; Simon Boccanegra and La Forza del Destino at the Verdi Festival in Parma; Ciro in Babilonia at Rossini Opera Festival and La bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Elisir d’amore at La Fenice in Venice.
When Bignamini leads an orchestra in symphonic repertoire, he conducts without a score, preferring to make direct eye contact with the musicians. He conducts from the heart, forging a profound connection with his musicians that shines through both onstage and off. He both embodies and exudes the excellence and enthusiasm that has long distinguished the DSO’s artistry.
Grammy Award winner Jeff Tyzik is one of America’s most innovative and sought-after pops conductors. Tyzik is recognized for his brilliant arrangements, original programming, and engaging rapport with audiences of all ages. In addition to his role as Principal Pops Conductor of the DSO, Tyzik holds The Dot and Paul Mason Principal Pops Conductor’s Podium at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and serves as principal pops conductor of the Oregon Symphony, Florida Orchestra, and Rochester Philharmonic (RPO) — a post he has held for over 20 seasons.
Frequently invited as a guest conductor, Tyzik has appeared with the Boston Pops, Cincinnati Pops, Milwaukee Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
In May 2007, the Harmonia Mundi label released his recording of works by Gershwin with pianist Jon Nakamatsu and the RPO, which stayed in the Top 10 on the Billboard classical chart for over three months. Alex Ross of the New Yorker called it "one of the snappiest Gershwin discs in years."
Committed to performing music of all genres, Tyzik has collaborated with such diverse artists as Megan Hilty, Chris Botti, Matthew Morrison, Wynonna Judd, Tony Bennett, Art Garfunkel, Dawn Upshaw, Marilyn Horne, Arturo Sandoval, The Chieftains, Mark O’Connor, Doc Severinsen, and John Pizzarelli. He has created numerous original programs that include the greatest music from jazz and classical to Motown, Broadway, film, dance, Latin, and swing. Tyzik holds Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the Eastman School of Music.
Learn more at jefftyzik.com.
Two-time Oscar nominee and six-time Grammy Award-winner Terence Blanchard has been a consistent artistic force for making powerful musical statements concerning painful American tragedies—past and present.
From his expansive work composing the scores for almost 20 Spike Lee projects over three decades, ranging from the documentary When the Levees Broke to the latest Lee film, Da 5 Bloods, Blanchard has interwoven beautiful melodies that created strong backdrops to human stories. Blanchard received an Oscar nomination for his original score for Da 5 Bloods in 2021 which marked his second nomination. Blanchard previously received an Oscar nomination for his original score for Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. Blanchard becomes only the second Black composer to be nominated twice in the original score category, duplicating Quincy Jones’s feat from 1967’s In Cold Blood and 1985’s The Color Purple.
For One Night in Miami, which marked Regina King’s feature directorial debut and premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, the Academy Award-winning actress tapped the talents of Blanchard as did Gaz Alazraki, the director of Father of the Bride which debuted on HBO Max. Some of Blanchard’s other film and television credits include Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, 25th Hour, and Inside Man; Kasi Lemmons’s films Eve’s Bayou and Harriet; George Lucas’s Red Tails; the critically acclaimed drama series Perry Mason starring Matthew Rhys with episodes directed by Tim Van Patten which debuted on HBO in June 2020, the National Geographic limited series Genius: Aretha which premiered in March 2021, HBO’s NYC Epicenters 9/11—2021 ½ documentary miniseries produced and directed by Spike Lee which premiered in August 2021, the Apple TV+ series Swagger which debuted in October 2021, and Apple TV’s docuseries They Call Me Magic which debuted on April 22, 2022 and for which Blanchard received his second Emmy nomination.
More recently, Blanchard wrote the original score for The Woman King directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood starring Viola Davis which premiered on September 16, 2022. Blanchard also arranged and produced songs for the upcoming feature A Jazzman’s Blues written, directed, and produced by Tyler Perry. In addition, Blanchard wrote the original score for the upcoming Apple TV+ documentary Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues directed by Sacha Jenkins and produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Documentaries, released in September during the Toronto International Film Festival.
Blanchard has composed his second opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, based on the memoir of celebrated writer and The New York Times columnist Charles Blow. The libretto was written by Kasi Lemmons and commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis where it premiered in June 2019. The New York Times has called Blanchard’s opera “inspiring,” “subtly powerful” and “a bold affecting adaptation of Charles Blow’s work.” The Metropolitan Opera premiered Fire Shut Up in My Bones on September 27, 2021 to open their 2021-22 season in New York, making it the first opera composed by an African American composer to premiere at the Met. Blanchard’s first opera, Champion, also premiered to critical acclaim in 2013 at OTSL and starred Denyce Graves with a libretto from Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cristofer. Champion was staged at the Met in April 2023, followed up a restaging of Fire Shut Up In My Bones in May 2024 due to record-setting box office & huge critical acclaim.
With his current jazz quintet, The E-Collective, featured on the score to BlacKkKlansman with a 96-piece orchestra, Blanchard delivered “a soaring, seething, luxuriant score” (The New York Times). In Vice Magazine, Blanchard elaborates, “In BlacKkKlansman it all became real to me. You feel the level of intolerance that exists for people who ignore other people’s pain. Musically, I can’t ignore that. I can’t add to that intolerance. Instead, I have to help people heal from it."
In his thirtieth year as a recording leader, Blanchard delivers Absence, a masterwork of sonic zest in collaboration with his longtime E-Collective band and the acclaimed Turtle Island Quartet which received Grammy Award nominations in November 2021 for Best Instrumental Jazz Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for Blanchard in 2022. It may seem like an irregular pairing, but Blanchard discovered that the quartet proved a perfect fit. “Obviously I’ve worked with strings in my career,” he says. “But Turtle Island has reimagined the language for the string quartet. It’s extremely unique, and what they do is brilliant. Playing together, it’s like a chamber jazz ensemble.”
Recorded in February 2020 just before the Covid-19 lockdowns, Absence started out as a project to show gratitude to Wayne Shorter. “I knew that Wayne wasn’t feeling well at the time, so I wanted to honor him to let him know how much he has meant to me,” says Blanchard who today lives in Los Angeles as well as in his native New Orleans. “When you look at my own writing, you can see how much I’ve learned from Wayne. He mastered writing compositions starting with a simple melody and then juxtaposing it against the harmonies that come from a different place to make it come alive in a different light."
Regarding his consistent attachment to artistic works of conscience, Blanchard confesses “You get to a certain age when you ask, ‘Who’s going to stand up and speak out for us?’ Then you look around and realize that the James Baldwins, Muhammad Alis and Dr. Kings are no longer here...and begin to understand that it falls on you. I’m not trying to say I’m here to try to correct the whole thing, I’m just trying to speak the truth.” In that regard, he cites unimpeachable inspirations. “Max Roach with his ‘Freedom Now Suite,’ John Coltrane playing ‘Alabama,’ even Louis Armstrong talking about what was going on with his people any time he was interviewed. Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter who live by their Buddhist philosophy and try to expand the conscience of their communities. I’m standing on all their shoulders. How dare I come through this life having had the blessing of meeting those men and not take away any of that? Like anybody else, I’d like to play feel good party music but sometimes my music is about the reality of where we are.”
American conductor Na’Zir McFadden is the Assistant Conductor and Phillip & Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, working closely with Music Director Jader Bignamini. McFadden also serves as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra. Together, they’ll present three programs—exploring masterworks by Tchaikovsky, Valerie Coleman, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Margaret Bonds, respectively.
Establishing his presence on the classical music scene, the 2023–2024 season includes a debut with the Ann Arbor Symphony and a return to the Philadelphia Ballet in addition to maintaining several ongoing engagements with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He’ll also serve as a guest cover conductor for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In the 2022–2023 season, he made his subscription debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra alongside bass-baritone Davóne Tines and clarinetist Anthony McGill. In March of 2024, he will return to conduct the DSO’s annual Classical Roots program premiering two new works by composers Billy Childs and Shelly Washington. Other conducting highlights have included debuts with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Ballet.
Additionally, McFadden led a recording project with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago featuring Hilary Hahn as co-collaborator and soloist. This past summer, McFadden participated in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Conducting Seminar as part of the Tanglewood Institute under the guidance of Andris Nelsons and Stefan Asbury. In 2020, McFadden was named the inaugural Apprentice Conductor of the Philadelphia Ballet; a position he held until 2022. He also served as the Robert L. Poster Conducting Apprentice of the New York Youth Symphony from 2020 to 2021. At the age of 16, he conducted his hometown orchestra—The Philadelphia Orchestra—in their “Pop-Up” series, meeting their Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin who has since served as a mentor to McFadden.
The Philadelphia Inquirer praised his “great stick [baton] technique and energetic presence on the podium” in their concert review. An advocate for arts education, McFadden strives to provide access to the arts for students in underserved communities. Currently, McFadden is a board member of Generation Music, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization that provides classical music education to underrepresented youth in local school districts that cannot afford to do so. His efforts have led to collaborations with youth ensembles in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Salt Lake City.
Internationally acclaimed conductor Leonard Slatkin is Music Director Laureate of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), Directeur Musical Honoraire of the Orchestre National de Lyon (ONL), Conductor Laureate of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria. He maintains a rigorous schedule of guest conducting throughout the world and is active as a composer, author, and educator.
Slatkin has received six Grammy awards and 35 nominations. His latest recordings are Jeff Beal’s The Paper Lined Shack on Supertrain Records and Slatkin Conducts Slatkin, a compilation of pieces written by generations of his musical family, including three of his own compositions, on Naxos Records. Other recent Naxos releases include works by Saint-Saëns, Ravel, and Berlioz (with the ONL) and music by Copland, Rachmaninov, Borzova, McTee, and John Williams (with the DSO). In addition, he has recorded the complete Brahms, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky symphonies with the DSO (available online as digital downloads).
A recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Arts, Slatkin also holds the rank of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor. He has received the Prix Charbonnier from the Federation of Alliances Françaises, Austria’s Decoration of Honor in Silver, the League of American Orchestras’ Gold Baton Award, and the 2013 ASCAP Deems Taylor Special Recognition Award for his debut book, Conducting Business. A second volume, Leading Tones: Reflections on Music, Musicians, and the Music Industry, was published by Amadeus Press in 2017. His latest book, Classical Crossroads: The Path Forward for Music in the 21st Century (2021), is available through Rowman & Littlefield. He is working on two more books and several new compositions.
Slatkin has conducted virtually all the leading orchestras in the world. As Music Director, he has held posts in New Orleans; St. Louis; Washington, DC; London (with the BBCSO); Detroit; and Lyon, France. He has also served as Principal Guest Conductor in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Cleveland. For more information, visit leonardslatkin.com.
Neeme Järvi, the DSO's celebrated Music Director for 15 years, is the Music Director Emeritus of the orchestra. Following his appointment in 1990, Maestro Järvi led the DSO to new artistic and institutional heights, attracting audiences in record numbers, leading acclaimed concerts, national and international tours, radio broadcasts and award-winning recordings. Under his leadership, the DSO became a symbol for the rebirth of Detroit. Järvi is the second-longest serving music director in the organization's history (famed Russian conductor Ossip Gabrilowitsch led the DSO from 1918 to 1936).
Learn more at neemejarvi.ee.