1617 Conductors Banner

By Ricky O'Bannon
Nov. 5, 2016

Conductors are the most visible part of an orchestra and, for marketers and promoters, the face of the ensemble.

The pool of conductors leading American orchestras has always been international. Historically in addition to home-grown conductors, American ensembles have looked to find Old World maestros from Europe and Russia. In recent decades though, conductors from South America and Asia have increasingly found a place on the American stage.

Continuing with our look at the 2016-2017 season, we take a look at who is leading American orchestras in concert by tracking every conductor (music director, guest conductor, assistant conductors on staff) to appear with one of the 85 ensembles in the data.

In addition to examining the country of origin and quantifying the still-pronounced gender disparity, we also track some of the most active conductors among these orchestras — both in terms of total concerts conducted (which can often be the result of a music director position with a large orchestra) and in the number of different orchestras they will appear with this season.

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1617 Conductors


  • Data was collected in July and August of 2016. Concert listings might have been updated since then but reflect original programming decisions by orchestra leaders. Similarly, concerts are included as originally announced, regardless of cancellations or work stoppages.
  • The 85 American orchestras included were chosen based on size criteria. Additionally so that orchestras are programming from the same repertoire, all included ensembles are symphony orchestras, which excludes chamber orchestras, period-focused historic ensembles or pops-focused ensembles.
  • Orchestras included are Alabama, Albany, Allentown, Arkansas, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Cape, Charleston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Columbus, Dallas, Dayton, Des Moines, Detroit, Eugene, Florida, Fort Wayne, Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Greenville, Harrisburg, Hartford, Hawaii, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Knoxville, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Louisville, Madison, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Mobile, Modesto, Naples, Nashville, National (DC), New Haven, New Jersey, New West, New York, North Carolina, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Orchestra Iowa, Oregon, Orlando, Pacific, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Quad City, Reno, Rhode Island, Richmond, Rochester, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seattle, Spokane, St. Louis, Toledo, Tucson, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wichita.
  • The programs and repertoire included are from the 2016-2017 season as listed on each orchestra website and brochures prior to the start of the season.
  • Calculations for the initial findings and infographic are weighed by the number of times a piece of music will be performed in concert.
  • Concerts data was collected from include subscription classical concerts, classical specials and new music series. Touring, holiday concerts, small ensemble or solo chambers series, pops and family concerts are excluded.
  • While technically touring, the Cleveland Orchestra’s concerts in Miami are included in the main classical programs as its performances in Miami are an annual part of its season.
  • To be included in any of the categories, concerts must use musicians from the listed orchestra.
  • Composer nationalities are based on information from the New Grove Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians as accessed through Oxford Music Online. When no entry exists for a living composer, nationality information comes from the best available biographical information usually from the composer’s website.
  • Composition date is based on the best available scholarship of the year in which a piece was completed.
  • Later revisions are not included in the composition date unless a concert program specifically denotes a different version of the original piece. For example, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite was completed in 1910, some orchestras might specify they are performing the 1919 or 1945 versions, which is included in the composition date for those entries.
  • While composition date is based on the best known date of completion of a piece, for works premiered during the 2015-2016 season, the composition date reflects the premiere date.
  • In most cases, composition date information comes from the International Music Score Library Project / Petrucci Music Library.
  • Instrumental soloists were counted based on being named in orchestral programs. This includes visiting soloists as well as featured orchestra members and also includes both concerti and other symphonic works that have a featured soloist role (ex. Copland's Quiet City features a trumpet soloist.)
  • Conductor information was also taken from being listed in concert program info, and includes music directors, visiting guest conductors or associate/assistant conductors.