Music Director, Polly and Bill Van Dyke Music Director Chair
Hailed as “fearless, bold, and a life-force” (San Diego Union-Tribune) and “a brilliant and commanding conductor with unmistakable charisma” (Leipzig Volkszeitung), Ken-David Masur is celebrating his fifth season as music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony’s Civic Orchestra. He has conducted distinguished orchestras including the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, l’Orchestre National de France, the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony, the National Philharmonic of Russia, and others throughout the United States, France, Germany, Korea, Japan, and Scandinavia.
Masur’s tenure in Milwaukee has been marked by innovative thematic programming, including a festival celebrating the music of the 1930s, when the Bradley Symphony Center was built, and the Water Festival, which highlighted local community partners whose work centers on water conservation and education. He has also instituted a multi-season artist-in-residence program, and he has led highly-acclaimed performances of major choral works, including a semi-staged production of Peer Gynt. This season, he begins a residency with bass-baritone Dashon Burton, and leads the MSO in an inaugural city-wide Bach festival, celebrating the diverse and universal appeal of J.S. Bach’s music in an ever-changing world.
Last season, Masur made his New York Philharmonic debut in a gala program featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. He also debuted at the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan, and at Classical Tahoe in three programs that were broadcast on PBS, and he led the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Branford Marsalis, and James Taylor at Tanglewood in a 90th birthday concert for John Williams. The summer of 2023 marked Masur’s debuts with the Grant Park Festival and the National Repertory Orchestra; later this season, he returns to the Baltimore Symphony and the Kristiansand Symphony.
Previously, Masur was associate conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. During his five seasons there, he led numerous concerts at Symphony Hall and at Tanglewood. For eight years, Masur served as principal guest conductor of the Munich Symphony, and he has also served as associate conductor of the San Diego Symphony and as resident conductor of the San Antonio Symphony.
Music education and working with the next generation of young artists are of major importance to Masur. In addition to his work with Civic Orchestra of Chicago, he has conducted orchestras and led masterclasses at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, Boston University, Boston Conservatory, Tokyo’s Bunka Kaikan Chamber Orchestra, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and The Juilliard School, where he leads the Juilliard Orchestra this fall.
Masur is passionate about contemporary music and has conducted and commissioned dozens of new works, many of which have premiered at the Chelsea Music Festival, an annual summer festival in New York City founded and directed by Masur and his wife, pianist Melinda Lee Masur. The Festival, which celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2024, has been praised by The New York Times as a “gem of a series” and by TimeOutNY as an “impressive addition to New York's cultural ecosystem.”
Masur and his family are proud to call Milwaukee their home and enjoy exploring all the riches of the Third Coast.