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Biography

Conductor

Emil de Cou currently serves as Music Director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Previously he was associate conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), where he led national tours, and performances at the Kennedy Center and at the US Capitol. He has served as Principal Conductor for the NSO’s performance series at the Wolf Trap Festival for more than a dozen years. His innovative concerts at Wolf Trap have included the first screenings of The Wizard of Oz with the score performed with live orchestra, the first ever live-tweeted program notes (for Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony), and a live real-time podcast for a concert entitled Fantastic Planet. In 2008 he conducted the first performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies.

As musical consultant for NASA, Mr. de Cou conducted several successful collaborations, including Human Spaceflight: The Kennedy Legacy, at the Kennedy Center. In 2006 he led the NSO in a presentation of Holst’s The Planets with narration by Leonard Nimoy and images from NASA. For his ongoing work with NASA, Mr. de Cou was awarded the agency’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal in 2012.

Mr. de Cou was acting music director for San Francisco Ballet and conductor of the American Ballet Theatre for eight seasons. His performance of the ballet Othello (with music Elliot Goldenthal) was aired on PBS’s Great Performances and recorded for the Varèse Sarabande label. His other recordings include Debussy Rediscovered, which includes previously unrecorded works by Debussy, for the Arabesque label.

Mr. de Cou has appeared as guest conductor with many leading orchestras, including those of Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Saint Louis, and the Boston Pops. He made his San Francisco Symphony debut in 1992 and served as principal pops conductor in 1995 and 1996.

Emil de Cou was born in Los Angeles and studied with Daniel Lewis at the University of Southern California. He was the subject of a documentary on National Public Radio and participated in Leonard Bernstein's master class at the Hollywood Bowl. He makes his home in San Francisco and Seattle with his husband, conductor Leif Bjaland.

(July 2018)