Jader Bignamini named Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Initial six-year contract to begin in 2020-2021 season

Jader conducts the DSO this weekend in three performances at Orchestra Hall, plus a Sunday afternoon Live from Orchestra Hall webcast via dso.org/live and Facebook Live

Detroit, (January 22, 2020) – Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) Chairman Mark Davidoff and President & CEO Anne Parsons announced today that Italian conductor Jader Bignamini has been appointed Music Director beginning with the 2020-2021 season, details of which the DSO also announced today. The news about the appointment was shared this morning with DSO musicians, staff, and members of the board of directors at the top of the first rehearsal for this weekend’s concerts, which Jader will conduct.

Jader Bignamini was introduced to Detroit audiences when he memorably stepped in for DSO Music Director Laureate Leonard Slatkin to close the 2017-2018 season with concert performances of Puccini’s Turandot. His chemistry with DSO musicians was evident to those who heard or were a part of the performances and knew that they had witnessed something special. That bond between conductor and orchestra was reaffirmed when Jader returned to Detroit this past October for performances of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony.

“There was certainly a feeling of amore a prima vista, meaning ‘love at first sight,’” says Bignamini about those initial performances with the DSO. “It has been such a pleasure and a privilege to discover, in the two years since that first experience, that the connection I felt that day with the extraordinary musicians of the DSO was not just a momentary spark—it is something very real and very exciting. I hope and expect that it will be the inspiration for not just good music, but special music, for many years to come. I also look forward to discovering all that Detroit has to offer. This is such an honor, and I am profoundly grateful to be a part of this iconic institution.”

Jader Bignamini was chosen as the next music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra following a search by an eight-member search committee comprising DSO musicians, board, and staff.

Mark Davidoff, Chairman of the DSO’s Board of Directors, says that Bignamini’s selection is aligned with the DSO’s longstanding commitment to creating and sharing extraordinary music with the City of Detroit.

“The DSO has long been an institution that not only prides itself on consistent artistic excellence, but also values its role as a cultural cornerstone for Detroit,” says Davidoff. “We hope and expect that music lovers and DSO supporters will agree that Jader is an inspired choice to lead the DSO into an exciting future filled with incredible and memorable musical moments. He understands the power of music to bring people together, inspire them and to lift them up, and we are confident that, in his role as Music Director, Jader will evoke the kind of passion and performances that have made the DSO such an integral part of this community.”

DSO President and CEO Anne Parsons says that Bignamini is the right choice to lead the DSO into the future.

“This is a landmark leadership choice at an auspicious time in our history,” says Parsons. “As we celebrate Orchestra Hall’s centennial throughout this season, we are thrilled to kick off the next 100 years of music-making in Detroit with a music director who combines vision, passion, and musicianship with an infectious personality. Jader both embodies and exudes enthusiasm and authenticity, and he has an inspiring vision for building on the musical legacy of the DSO, this city, and its community. When you make an appointment of this importance, it’s critical to achieve consensus and the alignment around Jader has been overpowering. We know that Detroit will love him, and we can’t wait to introduce him to all!”

Assistant Principal Bass Stephen Molina, who served on the search committee, says, “We are elated to have selected Jader Bignamini to be the next Music Director of the DSO. This is the rewarding culmination of an extensive search to find the new artistic leader of the DSO. Jader’s immediate connection to the musicians was unique, and his dynamic, thoughtful, and inspiring musical gifts bring tremendous enthusiasm to the stage. It’s truly exciting to think about all that we can accomplish together in the future, and we are thrilled to welcome him to Detroit.”   

Assistant Principal Flute Sharon Sparrow, an Orchestra Representative on the DSO Board of Directors says, “There has been undeniable chemistry onstage between Jader Bignamini and the musicians of the DSO from the first moment he conducted us in the concert version of Turandot. He immediately captured and has held our respect, attention, and excitement with his selfless dedication to every musical detail and his charismatic personality. We are thrilled to welcome him as our next Music Director and can promise that everyone in Detroit is in for a spectacular treat.”

Jader Bignamini succeeds Leonard Slatkin, who ended his decade-long tenure as DSO Music Director in 2018 and is currently the orchestra’s Music Director Laureate. Previous music directors of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have included Neeme Järvi (Music Director Emeritus), Antal Dorati, Sixten Ehrling, Paul Paray, and Ossip Gabrilowitsch. See below for a complete list.

This week, audiences in Detroit and around the world will be able to see and hear for themselves the exceptional music-making by the DSO under its newly appointed music director in three concerts at Orchestra Hall, including a Live from Orchestra Hall webcast on Sunday afternoon. Jader will conduct the DSO in Paganini’s virtuosic Violin Concerto No. 1 (with acclaimed soloist Augustin Hadelich) and Berlioz’s vibrant Symphonie fantastique. Tickets are available at dso.org and via the DSO Box Office.

The concerts take place Friday, January 24 at 10:45 a.m., Saturday, January 25 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, January 26 at 3 p.m. at Orchestra Hall, within Midtown Detroit’s Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center. The DSO Classical Series is generously sponsored by PVS Chemicals, Inc. The January 25 concert is additionally sponsored by Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss.

Sunday’s concert will be webcast for free at dso.org/live and via Facebook Live, as part of the DSO’s groundbreaking Live from Orchestra Hall series. The series is presented by Ford Motor Company Fund and made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

During the 2020-2021 season, which the DSO also announced today, Jader will conduct three weeks of the orchestra’s 20-week Classical Series. He will lead programs featuring Beethoven’s joyous Symphony No. 9 paired with a recent work by Hannah Lash (December 10-13); Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Midori plus works by Respighi and Veronika Krausas (May 6-9); and Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Orli Shaham and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6 (May 21-23).

Jader’s first full season as Music Director will be 2021-2022 when he will conduct 12 weeks in Detroit.

About Jader Bignamini

When Jader Bignamini (Yah-dur Bee-nyah-mee-nee) was nine years old, he became fascinated by the cover of one of his brother’s books. It was a photo of a boy playing what he thought to be a flute, and Jader became determined to play the same instrument. The only problem was that the photo featured a boy playing a clarinet. Jader may not have recognized all the instruments, but that image was the spark that ignited a lifelong love of music and a passion for performing, first as a musician with Orchestra Sinfonica La Verdi in Milan (clarinet, not flute), and later as the group’s resident conductor.

Jader studied at the Piacenza Music Conservatory. He was drawn to operatic arias, captivated by the power and complexity of ­symphonic music in masterpieces by legends like Mahler and Tchaikovsky. For the Crema, Italy native, it was thrilling to explore that complexity, and to puzzle out the role that each instrument played in making that larger-than-life sound. Even as a young musician, the seeds of a future conductor were present. As a teenager, he would “practice” conducting in room at night with a chopstick from a Chinese restaurant. 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, Jader has conducted some of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras in venues across the globe. His 2019-2020 season includes debuts with the Toronto, Houston, and Dallas symphonies; Minnesota Orchestra; Canadian Opera Company conducting Aida; Bayerische Staatsoper conducting La Traviata; and a return engagement with Stadttheater Klagenfurt conducting Eugene Onegin. He continues to tour with soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Yusif Eyvasov.

Other recent engagements include debuts at the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, and Dutch National Opera conducting Madama Butterfly; La Traviata in Tokyo directed by Sofia Coppola; return engagements with Oper Frankfurt conducting La forza del destino and Santa Fe Opera conducting La Bohème; Manon Lescaut at the Bolshoi; Turandot at Teatro Filharmonica; Il Trovatore and Aida at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera; and La Forza del Destino at the Verdi Festival in Parma. Memorable engagements for Jader have included 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. 

Jader’s passion and enthusiasm are infectious. And his warmth and joyful spirit animate an engaging personality as prodigious as his musical talent. When Jader 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.

A jazz aficionado and amateur chef, Jader is excited to immerse himself in Detroit’s rich jazz scene and to explore his new second city with his wife Lidia—also a clarinetist—and their two children, who play trumpet and trombone. But above all, he can’t wait to make more extraordinary music with the DSO musicians he has already established close relationships with. It’s an opportunity that, like the picture on the cover of a book that once caught his attention as a boy, was love at first sight.

For more, visit dso.org/jader and jaderbignamini.it.

About the DSO

The most accessible orchestra on the planet, the acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra is known for trailblazing performances, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and a deep connection to its city. As a community-supported orchestra, generous giving by individuals and institutions at all levels drives the continued success and growth of the institution. Italian conductor Jader Bignamini was named the DSO’s next music director in January 2020, beginning with the 2020-2021 season. Conductor Leonard Slatkin recently concluded an acclaimed decade-long tenure at the helm and now serves as the DSO’s Music Director Laureate, endowed by the Kresge Foundation. Celebrated conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik is the orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, while the outstanding trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard holds the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Director Chair.

Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, the DSO offers a performance schedule that features Classical, PNC Pops, Paradise Jazz, and Young People’s Family Concert series. One of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, Orchestra Hall will celebrate its centennial in 2019-2020 with special programming and events, a commemorative book written by former Detroit Free Press music critic Mark Stryker, a documentary series produced by Detroit Public Television, a two-site exhibition created in collaboration with the Detroit Historical Society, and more. Learn more about the centennial at dso.org/centennial.

In addition to performances in Orchestra Hall, the DSO presents the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series in seven metro area venues, as well as a robust schedule of eclectic multi-genre performances in its mid-size venue The Cube, constructed and curated with support from Peter D. & Julie F. Cummings. A dedication to broadcast innovation began in 1922, when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a radio broadcast and continues today with the free Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series, which also reaches tens of thousands of children with the Classroom Edition expansion. With growing attendance and unwavering philanthropic support from the people of Detroit, the DSO actively pursues a mission to embrace and inspire individuals, families, and communities through unsurpassed musical experiences.

Previous Music Directors / Conductors of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

  • Rudolph Speil (1887 – 1894)
  • William Yunck (1894 – 1895)
  • Johann Beck (1895 – 1896)
  • Arthur Depew (1896 – 1900)
  • Hugo Kalsow (1900 – 1910)
  • Weston Gales (1914 – 1917)
  • Ossip Gabrilowitsch (1918 – 1936)
  • Victor Kolar (1936 – 1941) *
  • Franco Ghione (1937 – 1940) *
  • Karl Krueger (1943 – 1949)
  • Paul Paray (1952 – 1962)
  • Sixten Ehrling (1963 – 1973)
  • Aldo Ceccato (1974 – 1977)
  • Antal Dorati (1977 – 1981)
  • Günther Herbig (1984 – 1990)
  • Neeme Järvi (1990 – 2005)
  • Leonard Slatkin (2008 – 2018)

* Co-conductors