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Oakland Symphony Names New Music Director

29-year-old Kedrick Armstrong was selected unanimously by the committee, following a two-year search

 

The Oakland Symphony has selected conductor Kedrick Armstrong as its next Music Director, effective immediately. The appointment is the product of a two-year search, following the sudden death of the orchestra's longstanding Music Director Michael Morgan in 2021. Morgan had held the position for a 30-year tenure.

Armstrong, 29, was selected unanimously by Oakland Symphony's Board of Directors and musicians. Originally from Georgetown, SC, he holds a B.M. in History and Literature from Wheaton College and an M.M. in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

A passionate advocate for Black classical musicians, Armstrong has held various speaking engagements and a research fellowship with the American Music Research Center (University of Colorado-Boulder) studying Black female composers within the Helen Walker-Hill archives.

Recent conducting highlights include an appearance with the Lyric Opera of Chicago to premiere a new opera, The Factotum, by Will Liverman and K Rico. He also appeared at the Opera Theater of St. Louis as one of the festival’s assistant/cover conductors (Tosca, Susannah).

Armstrong has studied with and assisted or covered conductors including John Nelson, Mei-Ann Chen, Michael Morgan, Cliff Colnot, Lidiya Yankovskaya, and Daniela Candillari, among others.

"I am deeply honored and grateful for the opportunity to serve as the new music director of the Oakland Symphony," Armstrong said. "As a Black conductor, I find it humbling to stand on the shoulders of both Michael Morgan and Calvin Simmons [the most recent and the first African-American Music Directors of the Symphony, respectively]."

"The Oakland Symphony community has embraced me with open arms since my first visit in 2022 and 'The Town' immediately felt like a place I wanted to call home," he continued. "The board, administration, and I are already building a relationship guided by trust, collaboration, and innovation, deeply rooted in the transformative work that has been a part of the Oakland Symphony's legacy for many decades."

"The committee was overwhelmed by Kedrick’s scholarship and curiosity about all kinds of music, from classical and jazz to gospel and hip-hop," said Dr Mieko Hatano, Executive Director of the Oakland Symphony. "His programming is innovative and reflects his commitment to including underrepresented composers, works and artists, which speaks directly to the Symphony's mission."

"Wherever he goes, Kedrick inspires musicians, singers and audiences who are captivated by his presence, energy and openness; his commitment to community and music education for all comes through in everything he does, in everyone he meets. We are thrilled to have him join us at the Oakland Symphony."

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