Marin Alsop, conductor and violinist, is currently the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the first female music director of a major American orchestra. She was born on October 16, 1956 in New York City and her parents were professional musicians. After briefly attending Yale University, she transferred to the Juilliard School where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in violin performance. A winner of the Koussevitzky Prize for outstanding conducting, she has studied with many of the twentieth and twenty-first century’s most famous conductors, including Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, and Gustav Meier. Besides conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Alsop also guest conducts the most prominent American and European orchestras including New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Orchestre de Paris.
Before making history as the first female music director of an American orchestra, Alsop served as Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony in the United Kingdom from 2002-2008 and Conductor Laureate of the Colorado Symphony for over twelve years. She also served as the music director for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, California. Every year since her initial appointment in 1992 at the Cabrillo Festival, Alsop has won the ASCAP award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music.
In addition to winning the ASCAP Adventurous Programming award for nearly two decades, Alsop has also received Gramophone’s “Artist of the Year” award, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Conductor’s Award, a MacArthur Fellowship, and is a fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Although women have been conducting major American orchestras for over two decades, women in the conducting field are still relatively rare. This is often attributed to symphony orchestras being more conservative than other musical genres as well as women’s initially slow entry into the professional orchestra scene. Marin Alsop, however, has not only broken the gender line for women conductors, but has thrived in the field, serving as a role model for young women conductors and musicians everywhere.