Robert Spano

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Robert Spano ( /ˈspæn/ SPAN-oh; born 7 May 1961, Conneaut, Ohio) is an American conductor [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] and pianist. He is currently music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO), music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, [7] and music director-designate of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. [8]



Early life

Spano grew up in a musical family in Elkhart, Indiana. [9] His father, Tony Spano, was a flute-builder and instrument-repairman as well as a clarinetist. Spano began making music early, studying piano, flute and violin. By the age of 14, he conducted a composition of his own with the local orchestra. [6] [10]

After graduating from Elkhart Central High School, he studied at the Oberlin Conservatory, where he earned a degree in piano performance, while also pursuing the violin and composition and studying conducting with Robert Baustian. [11] [12] After Oberlin, he studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his mentors included Max Rudolf.

In 1985, Spano left Curtis to take his first professional position, director of orchestral activities at Bowling Green State University. [6] [12] In 1989, he returned to Oberlin, now as a faculty member, leading the Opera Theater program. [11] He has maintained at least an official affiliation with Oberlin ever since. [12]

Rise to prominence

In 1990, Spano was named as an assistant conductor with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. [10] [13] After leaving this post in 1993, he has been a regular guest conductor with the Boston Symphony and a teacher at the Tanglewood Music Center in the summertime. At Tanglewood, he headed the conductor training program from 1998 to 2002, and directed the Festival of Contemporary Music in 2003 and 2004. [13] He has made appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman. [9]

In 1995, Spano's first music directorship was announced, with the Brooklyn Philharmonic. [5] [10] He began his tenure in the fall of 1996. [5] Over the next few years, despite multiple financial crises, [3] [14] [15] Spano, the orchestra, and executive director Joseph Horowitz developed programs organized around intellectual, dramatic, or historical themes, with occasional incorporation of visual elements. [1] [2] In 2002, Spano announced his intention to step down from the Brooklyn post at the end of the 2003–2004 season, remaining as an advisor, and then principal guest conductor, until 2007. [14]


In February 2000, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Spano as its next music director, effective in 2001. [2] [9] [16] [17] The ASO has reported increased ticket sales and donations during Spano's tenure. [18] [19] The ASO has extended Spano's contract as music director multiple times, [20] [21] and he is scheduled to conclude his ASO music directorship at the close of the 2020–2021 season. [22]

During his ASO tenure, Spano has developed working relationships with contemporary composers such as Osvaldo Golijov, Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, Michael Gandolfi, and Adam Schoenberg, under the rubric of the "Atlanta School of Composers". [23] Spano and the ASO have regularly recorded for Telarc, [9] and more recently for Deutsche Grammophon, including compositions from the "Atlanta School of Composers".

Alongside conducting, Spano remains active as a pianist, performing frequently as a chamber musician. He also continues to compose his own music, though only in his time off from his performing career. [24] Spano's work in opera has included conducting Seattle in cycles of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen , in 2005 and in 2009. [24] He made his guest-conducting debut with the Metropolitan Opera in New York on 19 October 2018, with the United States premiere of Nico Muhly's opera Marnie . [25] including the final performance on 10 November 2018, which was part of the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series.

Fort Worth

In March 2019, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) announced the appointment of Spano as its new principal guest conductor, with immediate effect, with a contract through the 2022–2023 season, simultaneously with his debut as a guest conductor with the orchestra. [26] In February 2021, the FWSO announced the appointment of Spano as its next music director, effective with the 2022–2023 season, with an initial contract of three years. He is scheduled to transition from principal guest conductor to music direcor-designate of the FWSO on 1 April 2021. [8]

Awards and honours

Spano was recognized with the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductors Award in 1994. [11] [27] He has also received honorary degrees from Bowling Green State University and the Curtis Institute of Music, and his recordings have won several Grammy Awards (see below). He was awarded the Ditson Conductor's Award in 2008. Musical America named Spano as its Conductor of the Year in 2008.

Selected discography

All recordings feature Spano conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and its Chorus lead by Norman Mackenzie (as appropriate). Additional featured soloists are noted.

Product page / Audio samples. Retrieved 2007-03-25
Awards: Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album, Best Choral Performance, and Best Engineered Album, 2003.
Product page / Audio samples. Retrieved 25 March 2007
Product page / Audio samples. Retrieved 25 March 2007
Product page / Audio samples. Retrieved 25 March 2007
Awards: Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, 2005.
Product page / Audio samples. Retrieved 25 March 2007
Awards: Gramophone Magazine "Editor's Choice" (December 2005).
Product page / Audio samples. Retrieved 25 March 2007
Product page / Audio samples. Retrieved 25 March 2007
Awards: Grammy Awards for Best Opera Recording, Best Classical Contemporary Composition, 2006.
Product page / Audio samples. Retrieved 25 March 2007

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  7. Wakin, Daniel J. (12 March 2011). "Robert Spano Named New Aspen Music Festival Music Director". The New York Times.
  8. 1 2 "Robert Spano Appointed Music Director of Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra" (PDF) (Press release). Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. 9 February 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
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  11. 1 2 3 Slonimsky, Nicolas, rev. Laura Kuhn. (2001): Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians – Centennial Edition, Vol. 5, p. 3415. New York: G. Schirmer. ISBN   0-02-865525-7
  12. 1 2 3 Robert Spano: Professor of Conducting (Oberlin Conservatory). Via Retrieved 24 March 2007
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  20. "Conductors Spano and Runnicles Extend Contracts with Atlanta Symphony Archived 6 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine "; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – 21 September 2005. Via Retrieved 24 March 2007
  21. "Musical director, principal guest conductor of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra renew contracts". Associated Press. 18 March 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
  22. Bo Emerson (23 January 2018). "Robert Spano to leave ASO music director post in 2021". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  23. The name refers to the orchestra's advocacy itself, as only Higdon comes from Atlanta, and none of the composers of the "School" are based there.
  24. 1 2 Ruhe, Pierre: "'There's Something Bottomless About It' – Robert Spano on Conducting Wagner's Ring Archived 6 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine " (Interview); The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – 15 September 2005. Via Retrieved 24 March 2007
  25. Anthony Tommasini (21 October 2018). "Review: Marnie Stays in the Shadows in Nico Muhly's Opera". New York Times. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  26. "Robert Spano Named Principal Guest Conductor of Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra" (Press release). Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. 15 March 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  27. Kozinn, Allan. "MUSIC REVIEW; Better Late Than Later, a Philharmonic Debut". The New York Times. 24 May 2003. Retrieved 23 March 2007



Cultural offices
Preceded by
Dennis Russell Davies
Music Director, Brooklyn Philharmonic
Succeeded by
Michael Christie
Preceded by
Yoel Levi
Music Director, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by