Teddy Abrams, Music Director

Teddy Abrams, Musical America’s 2022 Conductor of the Year, is now in his tenth season as Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra (LO). As profiled by the New York Times, CBS Sunday Morning, the New Yorker, NPR, Opera News, the Wall Street Journal, PBS’s Articulate, and PBS NewsHour, he has been the galvanizing force behind the orchestra’s extraordinary artistic renewal and commitment to innovative community engagement since his appointment in September 2014.

Abrams’s 2023-24 season with the LO begins with a tour with mandolinist, vocalist, and composer Chris Thile that features his new song cycle ATTENTION!, co-commissioned by the LO. This continues the LO’s historic multi-season state tour – “In Harmony – The Commonwealth Tour of the Louisville Orchestra” – that began last season. Other season highlights include music of Gabriel Kahane and John Adams; Mahler’s “Tragic” Symphony No. 6; and “Creators Fest” concerts featuring world premieres of works from the second round of composers participating in the Louisville Orchestra Creators Corps. This trailblazing initiative provides a fully funded residency for three composers who receive local housing, a salary, health benefits and dedicated workspaces.

After making his Hollywood Bowl debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and returning to Ravinia to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in August 2023, Abrams continues to be in high demand as guest conductor. This winter, he makes his Helsinki and Buffalo Philharmonic debuts and returns to the Utah Symphony. Highlights of the 2022-23 season include engagements with the Cincinnati, Colorado, Kansas City, and Pacific Symphonies; a return to the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg; and a debut with Innsbruck’s Tyrol Symphony Orchestra. Earlier international engagements include the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Malaysian Philharmonic. In North America, Abrams has conducted the San Francisco, National, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Vancouver and Phoenix Symphonies; the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; and the Florida and Sarasota Orchestras.

A prolific and award-winning composer himself, in April 2023, with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bass-baritone Davóne Tines and a cast of local musicians, Abrams and the LO descended into Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s longest known underground cave system, to perform Abrams’s Mammoth, an immersive theater work dedicated to all those who have explored the cave over the past 5,000 years.

In addition to Mammoth, Abrams’s recent compositional highlights include a piano concerto for his regular collaborator Yuja Wang, with which he and the Louisville Orchestra made their Deutsche Grammophon debuts on the virtuoso pianist’s March 2023 release, The American Project; and Space Variations, a collection of three new pieces for Universal Music Group’s 2022 World Sleep Day. Abrams is now at work on ALI, a new Broadway musical about boxing legend and activist Muhammad Ali, which is scheduled to receive its fall 2024 world premiere in Louisville, the boxer’s birthplace, before opening on Broadway in spring 2025. Abrams first began exploring Ali’s life and legacy in 2016, and the LO premiered his rap opera, The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, the following year. The all-star cast featured Rhiannon Giddens, Jubilant Sykes, and activist-musician Jecorey “1200” Arthur, now one of Louisville’s Metro councilmen, with whom Abrams went on to found the Louisville Orchestra Rap School.

The rap opera is just one of the adventurous collaborations Abrams has initiated in Louisville. With Jim James, vocalist and guitarist for My Morning Jacket, he composed the song cycle The Order of Nature, which they premiered with the Louisville Orchestra and reprised with the National Symphony Orchestra at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, before recording it for Decca Gold. Similarly, with singer-songwriter Storm Large, Abrams and the LO recorded All In, a celebration of American music by Cole Porter, Aaron Copland, and Abrams and Large themselves, also for release by Decca Gold.

In summer 2023, Abrams concludes his ten-year tenure as Music Director and Conductor of Oregon’s Britt Festival Orchestra. As well as helming its annual three-week festival of concerts, Abrams has led the orchestra on tour in the Pacific Northwest with new works including Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw’s experiential Brush, written for their summer 2021 performance on the Jacksonville Woodlands Trail system, and Michael Gordon’s Natural History. Their world premiere performance of Gordon’s work at the edge of Crater Lake National Park, presented in partnership with the National Park Service, was the subject of the PBS documentary Symphony for Nature.

Abrams served as Assistant Conductor of the Detroit Symphony (2012–14) and as Conducting Fellow and Assistant Conductor of the New World Symphony (2008–11).