Michael Stern has embarked upon his second decade with the Kansas City Symphony, hailed for its remarkable artistic ascent, original programming, organizational development and stability, and the extraordinary growth of its varied audiences since his tenure began. Over the last five seasons, Stern and the orchestra have ushered in a new era and have performed to critical acclaim and sold-out audiences in their performance home, Helzberg Hall at the $413 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
To date, Stern and the Kansas City Symphony have successfully partnered with award-winning audiophile label Reference Recordings to produce five albums: Shakespeare’s Tempest; Britten’s Orchestra, which won a 2011 Grammy Award in the “Surround Sound Album” category and producer David Frost won “Producer of the Year, Classical;” an Elgar/Vaughan Williams project; Miraculous Metamorphoses, featuring the music of Hindemith, Prokofiev and Bartók; and most recently, Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3, “Organ,” which Gramophone Magazine named “Editor’s Choice” for September 2015. Reference Recordings has slated two project for future release: Holst’s The Planets (recorded January 2015) and Adam Schoenberg’s Finding Rothko; Picture Studies, an expressive interpretation of masterpieces at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; and American Symphony, premiered by the Symphony in 2011 (recorded June 2014). Stern led the commissioning of all three Adam Schoenberg pieces. The Symphony and Stern also have recorded for the Naxos label. In July 2012, the Symphony’s concerts with internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato were broadcast nationally on nearly 400 PBS stations for the PBS Summer Arts Series. The Grammy-nominated audio recording of that concert is available on iTunes.
Stern is also the founding artistic director and principal conductor of IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tenn. This unique group, now in its second decade, has been widely praised for its virtuosity and programming, and has produced a string of recordings and acclaimed commissioned new works by American composers. Other positions include a tenure as the chief conductor of Germany’s Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra (the first American chief conductor in the orchestra’s history) and as Permanent Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lyon in France, a position which he held for five years, and a stint as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lille, France.
Stern has led orchestras throughout Europe and Asia, including the Budapest and Vienna radio symphonies, the Helsinki, Israel, London, Moscow and Royal Stockholm philharmonics, London Symphony, National Symphony of Taiwan, Orchestre de Paris and Tokyo’s NHK Symphony, among many others.
In North America, Stern has conducted the Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Indianapolis, National (Washington, D.C.), Montreal, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Seattle and Toronto symphonies, the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras, as well as the New York Philharmonic. He also appears regularly at the Aspen Music Festival and has served on the faculty of the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen.
Stern received his music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his major teacher was the noted conductor and scholar Max Rudolf. Stern co-edited the third edition of Rudolf’s famous textbook, “The Grammar of Conducting,” and also edited a new volume of Rudolf’s collected writings and correspondence. He is a 1981 graduate of Harvard University, where he earned a degree in American history.