Born in Massachusetts in 1947, John Adams earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard before moving to San Francisco in 1971. He joined the artistic staff of the San Francisco Symphony in 1979, serving first as New Music Adviser, and in that role, he created the San Francisco Symphony’s New and Unusual Music concerts. He later became the Orchestra’s first Composer-in-Residence. His works written for and premiered by the SFS include Harmonium, Grand Pianola Music, Harmonielehre, El Dorado, and My Father Knew Charles Ives. Mr. Adams made his SFS subscription debut in 1991 leading the world premiere of El Dorado, and conducted the Orchestra most recently in 2010. Mr. Adams has collaborated extensively with stage director Peter Sellars, producing operatic and theatrical work including Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, Doctor Atomic, I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, and the SFS co-commissions El Niño and A Flowering Tree. On the Transmigration of Souls, written in 2002 for the New York Philharmonic in commemoration of the first anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Music and earned Grammy awards for Best Classical Recording, Best Orchestral Performance, and Best Classical Contemporary Composition. The San Francisco Symphony’s recording on SFS Media of Mr. Adams’s Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine, led by Michael Tilson Thomas, won a 2013 Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance and an ECHO Klassik award.
Mr. Adams’s recent works include Scheherazade.2, which will be given its world premiere by Leila Josefowicz and the New York Philharmonic in March 2015; City Noir and his Saxophone Concerto, both recorded for Nonesuch Records by David Robertson and the Saint Louis Symphony with soloist Tim McAllister; and Absolute Jest, commissioned by the SFS and given its world premiere in 2012 with Michael Tilson Thomas leading the Orchestra and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. As a conductor, Mr. Adams appears with the world’s major orchestras in programs that combine his own works with a wide variety of repertory ranging from Beethoven and Mozart to Ives, Carter, Zappa, Glass, and Ellington. In the 2014-15 season he conducts the Vienna Symphony for the first time. Mr. Adams currently serves as Creative Chair of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His autobiography, Hallelujah Junction, was released in 2008.