Scott Speck, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor
Scott Speck has been Artistic Director of the Chicago Philharmonic since 2013. He has performed all over the world, including Paris, Moscow, and Beijing and has earned acclaim for his passion and intelligence. He also serves as Music Director of the Joffrey Ballet.
As Director of the Mobile Symphony, Mr. Speck conducted Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Midori, Evelyn Glennie, and Olga Kern. He also has collaborated with Carnegie Hall as Music Director of the West Michigan Symphony. Mr. Speck has conducted at London’s Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, the Paris Opera, Washington’s Kennedy Center, San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, and the Los Angeles Music Center.
He has led numerous performances with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Houston, Chicago (Chicago Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Sinfonietta), Paris, Moscow, Shanghai, Beijing, Vancouver, Romania, Slovakia, Buffalo, Columbus (OH), Honolulu, Louisville, New Orleans, Oregon, Rochester, Florida, and Virginia, among many others.
He has held positions as Conductor of the San Francisco Ballet, Music Advisor and Conductor of the Honolulu Symphony, as well as Associate Conductor of the Los Angeles Opera.
Mr. Speck is the co-author of two best-selling books on classical music, Classical Music for Dummies and Opera for Dummies, which have been translated into twenty languages. His third book in the series, Ballet for Dummies, was also released to great acclaim.
Mr. Speck has been a regular commentator on National Public Radio, the BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Voice of Russia. He has been featured in TED talks and at the Aspen Ideas Festival. His writing has been featured in numerous magazines and journals.
Joel Smirnoff, Guest Conductor
Violinist Joel Smirnoff has developed into a highly acclaimed conductor with an impressive and wide-ranging repertoire. He is consistently cited for his high energy and special attention to the stylistic demands of each work. In 2000, he made his official American conducting debut with the San Francisco Symphony with an all-Tchaikovsky program. Guest conducting engagements include the Amarillo Symphony, Chicago Philharmonic, Juilliard Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Texas Music Festival Orchestra, Western New York Chamber Orchestra, and a European tour with the Basel Sinfonietta and Charles Rosen as soloist in the Elliott Carter Piano Concerto. A recording of that Carter Piano Concerto performance was released by Bridge Records. Mr. Smirnoff recently returned from Japan where he conducted the Saito Kinen Orchestra in a concert dedicated to the 90th Birthday of Robert Mann, former first violin of the Juilliard String Quartet.
Mr. Smirnoff became President of the Cleveland Institute of Music in July, 2008. For many years he had been the second, then the first violin of the Juilliard String Quartet and Chairman of the Violin Department at The Juilliard School. He was the featured soloist in 1997 at the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he performed the Berg Violin Concerto under the direction of Bernard Haitink, at a concert dedicated to the memory of violinist Louis Krasner. In 1983, as second-prize winner of the International American Music Competition for Violin, he was awarded debuts at Carnegie Hall on its Emerging Artists series and at Town Hall on its Midtown Masters series.
Mr. Smirnoff also plays jazz, performing frequently as improvising soloist with Tony Bennett. His solos were featured on the Grammy award-winning CD Tony Bennett Sings Ellington Hot and Cool. He has also been guest soloist with Gunther Schuller and the American Jazz Orchestra, and the Billy Taylor Trio. In 2011, Mr. Smirnoff was awarded the University of Chicago Professional Achievement Award.
Leif Bjaland, Guest Conductor
Leif Bjaland is Music Director of the Waterbury Symphony in Connecticut, where he has been praised for his performances and imaginative programming. He first conducted the Chicago Philharmonic 24 years ago.
Mr. Bjaland has appeared with the San Francisco Symphony, National Symphony, Florida Philharmonic, Louisiana Philharmonic and the symphony orchestras of Fort Worth, Nashville, Detroit, Rochester, Utah, Madison, Akron, Fort Wayne, Fresno, Des Moines, Mobile, San Jose, Rhode Island, Virginia, Harrisburg, Colorado, Long Beach, Grand Rapids, Flint, Kalamazoo, New World, and Chicago’s Grant Park. In 2001, he conducted the opening week of the Interlochen Arts Festival, and in the summer of 2002 guest conducted the Young Artists Orchestra at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, culminating in a performance in Ozawa Hall. He made his Ravinia debut at the 2003 Ravinia Festival conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program entitled “Bernstein on Broadway.” He was artistic director and conductor of the Sarasota Orchestra from 1997 until 2013.
Mr. Bjaland is also an active opera conductor who assisted in the production of David Carlson’s The Midnight Angel at Glimmerglass Opera. He has conducted the Florida Grand Opera in Don Giovanni, a triple bill of one-act operas by Manuel de Falla – El Amor Brujo, Master Peter’s Puppet Show and La Vida Breve; and Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Mr. Bjaland received critical acclaim when he gave the world premiere concert performance of George Chadwick’s opera The Padrone. In the 2000-01 Season, Leif Bjaland conducted a new commission by the Florida West Coast Symphony of David Carlson’s Quantum Symphony.
Mr. Bjaland has conducted in Europe and Asia. He has conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Malmo Symphony and Gavleborgs Symphony orchestras in Sweden, the Orchestra of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation in Oslo, and L’Opera Royal de Wallonie in Liege, Belgium. He has conducted the Hong Kong Philharmonic as well as the Philippine Philharmonic in Manila.
Mr. Bjaland received his Master’s degree in music from the University of Michigan where he was a student of Gustav Meier and Elizabeth A.H. Green. He also received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Susquehanna University.
Larry Rachleff, Conductor Emeritus
Larry Rachleff was the Chicago Philharmonic’s Music Director for 23 years, until May 2013. During his time with the Chicago Philharmonic, he conducted the orchestra in many symphonic performances, ending his tenure with Leonard Bernstein’s First Symphony ( “Jeremiah”), and Franz Schubert’s 9th Symphony.
Mr. Rachleff is the Music Director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra. He also serves as Director of Orchestras and the Walter Kris Hubert Chair at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston. He has been a regular guest conductor with the orchestras of Colorado, Utah, Indianapolis and Kansas City, with recent appearances at Charlotte, Ft. Worth, Columbus, Rochester, Florida, Grand Rapids, Utah, Seattle and Phoenix, to name a few. During the summer, he guest conducts at prestigious venues such as the Music Academy of the West, the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Sarasota Music Festival, the Chautauqua Music Festival and the Grand Teton Festival.
A former faculty member at the Oberlin Conservatory, where he was Music Director of Orchestras and Conductor of the Contemporary Ensemble, he also served as conductor of the Opera Theatre at the University of Southern California. He has conducted and presented master classes all over the world, including the Chopin Academy in Warsaw, the Zurich Hochschule, the Sydney and Queensland, Australia conservatories, the Juilliard School, the New England Conservatory and Royal Northern College in the U.K.