Music Director, Polly and Bill Van Dyke Music Director Chair
The city of Milwaukee and the music world at large celebrates the beginning of Ken-David Masur's tenure as music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Hailed as “fearless, bold, and a life-force” (San Diego Union-Tribune) and “a brilliant and commanding conductor with unmistakable charisma” (Leipzig Volkszeitung), Masur has conducted distinguished orchestras around the world, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chicago and Detroit symphonies, l'Orchestre National de France, the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony in Tokyo, the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, the National Philharmonic of Russia, and orchestras throughout the United States, France, Germany, Korea, Japan, and Scandinavia. In addition to regular appearances at Ravinia, Tanglewood and the Hollywood Bowl, Masur has conducted internationally at festivals such as the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, the Festival of Colmar in France, Denis Matsuev’s White Lilac Festival in Russia, the Tongyeong Festival in South Korea and the TV Asahi Festival in Tokyo, Japan.
Masur recently concluded a landmark tenure as associate conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where he led numerous concerts at Symphony Hall -- including a much hailed original, staged production of Peer Gynt with director Bill Barclay and the BSO -- plus concerts at Tanglewood of new and standard works featuring guest artists such as Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Emanuel Ax, Garrick Ohlsson, Joshua Bell, Louis Lortie, Kirill Gerstein, Nikolaj Luganski, Sergio Tiempo, Gerhard Oppitz et al. For eight years, Masur served as principal guest conductor of the Munich Symphony, and previously as associate conductor of the San Diego Symphony as well as resident conductor of the San Antonio Symphony.
Masur was born in Leipzig, Germany where his father, Kurt Masur, served as the Gewandhaus Kapellmeister for 26 years. He learned violin at age 4 and piano at age 6 at the Conservatory “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.” At age 9 he became a chorister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus children’s choir, touring extensively throughout Europe and making recordings with the Gewandhaus Orchestra. After the peaceful revolution and reunification of Germany, Ken-David Masur relocated to New York City with his family in 1991 where he began studying the trumpet, percussion and composition. Some of his most defining musical experiences after moving to the United States came as a composition student at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) in 1996, where he had the opportunity to perform in the Festival Chorus under the batons of John Williams and Seiji Ozawa. Since those days as a teenager on Tanglewood’s lawn, where he would be exposed to some of the world's most important living composers, Masur has been passionate about the growth, encouragement and application of contemporary music and has conducted and commissioned dozens of world premieres.
Together with his wife, pianist Melinda Lee Masur, he is the founder and artistic director of the Chelsea Music Festival, an annual summer music festival in New York City praised by The New York Times as a “gem of a series” and frequently featured amongst its Best Classical picks of the season. The Festival seeks to engage curious audiences with its ground-breaking collaborations between the performing, visual and culinary arts. 2019 marked the Festival’s 10th season celebrating the pioneering legacy of Clara Schumann with commissions and premiers by ten leading female composers from across the globe -- all to critical acclaim, having “designed a fascinating series of concerts, art exhibitions and culinary experiences unmatched by any other organization in New York City” (Broadway World).
A graduate of Columbia University, Masur served as the music director there of the Musical Theatre Society, a contemporary music ensemble, and the Bach Society Chorus and Orchestra from 1999-2002. With the Bach Society he undertook a tour to Germany with an opera by GF Handel and recorded symphonies and concertos by CPE, WF and J.S. Bach. He went on to further study at the Manhattan School of Music, the Detmold Academy and the “Hanns Eisler” Conservatory in Berlin, where he was a five-year master’s student of German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff.
In Chicago, Ken-David Masur assumes his new post this season as the new Principal Conductor of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the professional training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony and the Negaunee Music Institute.
Music education and working with the next generation of young artists is of major importance to him. He has led orchestras and masterclasses at the New England Conservatory, Boston University, Boston Conservatory, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and at leading universities and conservatories in Asia, Europe, and South America.
Ken-David looks forward to engaging in the creative current carrying this great city through its artistry, imagination and its truly wonderful symphony orchestra.