Our New Music Director

Alastair Willis

Alastair WillisGrammy nominated conductor ALASTAIR WILLIS is the newly appointed Music Director of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.  In past seasons, Willis has guest conducted orchestras around the world including the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Mexico City Philharmonic, Orquestra Sinfonica de Rio de Janeiro, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonic, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, China National Orchestra (Beijing), and Silk Road Ensemble (with Yo-Yo Ma) among others.  His recording of Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les Sortileges” with Nashville Symphony and Opera for Naxos was Grammy nominated for Best Classical Album in 2009.

Alastair Willis recently completed a successful four-year tenure as Music Director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.  Last season he was re-engaged by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, Victoria Symphony B.C., North Carolina Symphony, Dresden Philharmonic, Orquestra Sinfonica Barra Mansa, Symphonia Boca Raton, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Orchestra Seattle/Seattle Chamber Singers, and made his debuts with the Wichita Symphony, Boise Philharmonic, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, South Bend Symphony Orchestra and Roosevelt Contemporary Ensemble.  This season he returns to Gyor Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boca Raton Symphonia, and makes his debut with Philharmonie Südwestfalen.

Previous positions include Principal Guest Conductor with the Florida Orchestra’s Coffee Concert series 2008-2011, Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony 2000-2003, Assistant Conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, and Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Born in Acton, Massachusetts, Willis lived with his family in Moscow for five years before settling in Surrey, England.  He received his bachelor’s degree with honors from England’s Bristol University, an Education degree from Kingston University, and a Masters of Music degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Willis currently resides in Seattle, and is looking forward to making South Bend his second home!

"I look forward to many magical concerts with the passionate and skillful musicians of the SBSO.  I want to see our contribution to the quality of life and the arts in South Bend continue deepen and become ever more meaningful."


A Message from Alastair

 Welcome to the SBSO’s 2017-18 season!  I have been incredibly touched by the welcome I've received as Music Director.  I’m delighted to call South Bend my new musical home, and honored to be a part of this new era for the orchestra, our audiences, and the culture of South Bend.

I’d like to thank the Programming Committee for the terrific program they’ve put together for us – I’m looking forward to every concert!  The amazing violinist, Rachel Barton Pine, will be joining us for Korngold’s Violin Concerto and we have world-class soloists for Verdi’s dramatic Requiem.  Some of our own SBSO members will be center stage – Vakhtang Kodanashvili will play Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and the French Horn section will tackle Schumann’s virtuosic Konzertstück.  Their performances will give us new ways to appreciate the individual artistic depth of our musicians.  

I particularly love the variety of our concerts, and that there’s something for everyone in our communities: large-scale Masterworks, more intimate Mosaic (formerly “Chamber”) series, breathtaking Pops, Martin Luther King Celebration, Home for the Holidays and more.  I’m thrilled that our education concerts this year will be joining forces with the Carnegie Hall “Link Up” series, and that we have added a new Family concert in which we will present Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” in collaboration with local actors.

My heartfelt gratitude goes to the musicians, board, staff, patrons and volunteers for the generous support and tireless dedication they give to make this institution remarkable.  I look forward to continuing Maestro Tsung Yeh’s tremendous legacy, offering life-changing experiences through the power of live orchestra music, and enriching the cultural landscape of South Bend.

I can’t wait to meet each and every one you at our concerts and out in the community, and look forward to building new friendships.  Here’s to creating new memories and great music together!


Maestro Willis will conduct the following 2017-18 Season concerts:

For more information about Alastair Willis, visit alastairwillis.com

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