Edwin Outwater, Artistic Director
Edwin Outwater is Director of Summer Concerts at the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), and Artistic Director of the Eastern Sierra Symphony, a summer festival in Mammoth Lakes, California. After a remarkable decade of groundbreaking work, he has been named Music Director Laureate of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. An ardent champion of new music and cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration, he is a visionary programmer with a gift for bringing context to the concert hall. Equally adept at interpreting canonical masterworks, premiering new commissions, and connecting audiences with repertoire beyond the mainstream, Outwater is, in the words of Michael Tilson Thomas, “one of the most innovate conductors on the scene today.”
In the 2016-2017 season, his final season as Music Director of the KWS, Outwater and the orchestra continued their groundbreaking Intersections concerts. This season, he explored the deep relationship between music and science in a collaboration with the Institute for Quantum Computing and cellist Johannes Moser. Other KWS highlights included a gala farewell concert with Measha Brueggergosman and Stewart Goodyear, and world premieres from Richard Reed Parry and Riho Esko Maimets. In his fourth season as Director of Summer Concerts at the SFS, an appointment that extends throughout the year, Outwater leads collaborations with vocalist Rhiannon Giddens, pianist Ben Folds and others. As the only guest artist invited to curate a third consecutive season, Outwater returned to help lead the trailblazing series SoundBox in the SFS’s new nightclub-style performance space, and curates and conducts the Music for Families series. At the Eastern Sierra Symphony, Outwater is quickly creating one of the most creative and distinctive festivals in the United States, attracting musicians from major orchestras around the country, and collaborating with some of the world’s most sought-after composers and vocal artists.
Mr. Outwater’s extensive guest-conducting schedule featured several special projects with the Chicago Symphony in collaboration with Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma, as well as creating and performing “Sound Health” at the Kennedy Center, in collaboration with soprano Renée Fleming and the National Institutes of Health. He also returned to the New World Symphony and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. He made debuts with the Brussels Philharmonic, the Grant Park Festival, and the Montreux Jazz Festival, and appeared with Mason Bates at the Kennedy Center in their acclaimed new music series, “Kennedy Center Jukebox.” In the United States, Outwater has conducted the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as symphony orchestras including Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New World, and Seattle. In Canada, he has led the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the symphonies of Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Victoria. International appearances include the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony, Kyoto Symphony, BBCNOW, the New Zealand Symphony, Adelaide Symphony, Malmö Symphony, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, Mexico City Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa, and Hong Kong Sinfonietta. In 2009, Outwater made his professional opera debut conducting La traviata at the San Francisco Opera, and he has since led productions at Cincinnati Opera and New York’s Lincoln Center. He participated as Associate Conductor in both YouTube Symphony projects, at Carnegie Hall and at the Sydney Opera House. He also led the performances for From Here On Out, the KWS’s 2011 Analekta release of music by Muhly, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, a recording for which NPR Music praised Outwater for guiding “dexterous performances by musicians who play the music like they own it.” Outwater is also featured on two 2014-15 releases: Expanded, which captures his Barbican Centre debut with These New Puritans, and Sarah Kirkland Snider’s highly anticipated album Unremembered.
Outwater was Resident Conductor of the SFS from 2001-06, where he worked closely with Michael Tilson Thomas, accompanied the orchestra on tour, conducted numerous concerts each season, and collaborated with such artists as Kurt Masur, Yo-Yo Ma, and Evelyn Glennie. He twice substituted for Tilson Thomas, and in 2006 premiered and recorded The Composer is Dead by Nathaniel Stookey and Lemony Snicket, which was subsequently released by HarperCollins and has become one of the most-performed works written in the 21st century. In 2008, his SFS recording of music by Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate was released to wide acclaim.
From 2001-05, Outwater was the Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, leading all its concerts and a 2004 European tour, when the orchestra made debuts at Vienna’s Musikverein and Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, besides returning to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Before joining the SFS, Outwater served as Resident Conductor and Associate Guest Conductor of the Florida Philharmonic, Associate Conductor of the Festival-Institute at Round Top in Texas, Principal Conductor of the Adriatic Chamber Music Festival in Molise, Italy, and Assistant Conductor of the Tulsa Philharmonic.
Outwater’s work in music education and community outreach is justly celebrated. In 2004 his education programs at the SFS received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming, and his Chinese New Year Program won the MET LIFE award for community outreach. In Kitchener-Waterloo, Outwater redesigned the orchestra’s education series and initiated myriad community connections. At the SFS, he conducted Family Concerts; Adventures in Music performances, heard by more than 25,000 students from San Francisco schools each year; and Concerts for Kids, which reaches students throughout Northern California. In Florida, Outwater designed the Florida Philharmonic Family Series and its Music for Youth program, heard annually by more than 40,000 fifth-grade students in South Florida. He appears frequently with training orchestras and at music festivals worldwide, including the New World Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the National Music Camp of Australia, National Youth Orchestra of New Zealand, Music Academy of the West, National Orchestral Institute, Festival-Institute at Round Top, and New York’s Mannes Conservatory Orchestra. Outwater has served as Music Director of the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony and on the faculties of the University of Tulsa, Idyllwild Arts Academy, and University of California, Santa Barbara.
A native of Santa Monica, California, Edwin Outwater graduated cum laude in English literature from Harvard University, where he was music director of the Bach Society Orchestra and the a cappella group Harvard Din and Tonics, and wrote the music for the 145th annual production of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals. He received his master’s in conducting from UC Santa Barbara, where he studied with Heiichiro Ohyama and Paul Polivnick, besides studying music theory and composition with John Stewart, Joel Feigin, and Leonard Stein.
Aimée Kreston, Executive Director
A native of Chicago, violinist Aimée Kreston spent her formative years studying with with renowned pedagogue Almita Vamos. Ms. Kreston holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music and a Master of Music degree from the University of Minnesota. After completing her degrees, Kreston continued her studies with the legendary concertmaster Michel Schwalbe.
In 1989 Ms. Kreston became the youngest member of the Minnesota Orchestra and a year later won the post of Principal Second Violin in that ensemble. From 1993 to 1997 she served as Concertmaster of L’Orchestre de Paris, the only American in that ensemble. She has been privileged to perform, as concertmaster, with some of the worlds greatest conductors including Christoph Eschenbach, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Carlo Maria Giullini, Sir Gorge Solti, and Pierre Boulez.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1998, Ms. Kreston joined the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra as Concertmaster, and in June of 2000, she was engaged as Concertmaster of the Pasadena Symphony. Ms. Kreston has performed in nearly every European country, having appeared as soloist at Amsterdam’s Concertgebow and as chamber musician at the Chatelet Chamber music series in Paris, the Reims music festival, and at the Queluz Chateau festival in Portugal. Ms. Kreston was a prizewinner of the Tibor Varga International Violin Competition in Switzerland in 1989 and at the WAMSO Young artist’s competition in Minneapolis in 1988.
Kreston is on the faculty of the Colburn School and the Pasadena Conservatory. Ms. Kreston’s students have won numerous awards, and her graduating seniors have been invited to attend the Colburn Conservatory, Indiana University, San Francisco Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Juilliard, and the USC Thornton School of Music, among others.
Ms. Kreston is the Executive Director of the Eastern Sierra Symphony, a summer music festival in beautiful Mammoth Lakes California, and a member of the Pasadena String Quartet.
Elizabeth Hedman, Concertmaster
Elizabeth Hedman joined the Eastern Sierra Symphony on the faculty and Concertmaster in 2012. Ms. Hedman has been a soloist with The National Repertory Orchestra, The Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, The Northwest Chamber Orchestra, and The Seattle Youth Symphony, among others. Her education includes Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she won both the Concerto Competition and the Valedictory Award and was teaching assistant to Donald Weilerstein. Her principal violin teachers include Mr. Weilerstein, Margaret Pressley, and Naoko Tanaka; and for piano, Beth Hall.
Currently, Elizabeth resides in Los Angeles and she is Principal Second and Acting Concertmaster for the Santa Barbara Symphony as well as a member of the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, and the Pasadena Symphony and Pops. Elizabeth plays regularly with the Los Angeles Opera, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the Santa Barbara Opera. She is a member of Ensemble Green and the Pasadena String Quartet. Since 2009 she has been performing at the renowned Oregon Bach Festival, where she acts as Principal Second for select performances.
Nadia Sirota, 2018 Summer Festival Soloist
Violist Nadia Sirota’s varied career spans solo performances, chamber music, curation, and broadcasting. In all branches of her artistic life she aims to open classical music up to a broader audience. Nadia’s singular sound and expressive execution have served as muse to dozens of composers, including Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, Missy Mazzoli, Daníel Bjarnason, Judd Greenstein, Marcos Balter, and David Lang. Nadia won a 2015 Peabody Award, broadcasting’s highest honor, for her podcast Meet the Composer, “the world’s best contemporary classical music podcast” (Pitchfork), which deftly profiles some of the most interesting musical thinkers living today.
For the 2018-19 season, Nadia teams up with the New York Philharmonic as their firstever Creative Partner, a position created for her. In this role, she will host nine contemporary music concerts over two new series: Nightcap and Sound ON, the latter of which she will also curate.
As a soloist, Nadia has appeared with acclaimed orchestras around the world, including the Detroit Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Spanish National Orchestra, and the Orchestre National d’Île-de-France. To date, she has released four albums of commissioned music, most recently, Tessellatum, Donnacha Dennehy’s groundbreaking work for viola and microtonal viola da gamba consort, featuring Liam Byrne. Nadia has also lent her sound to recording and concert projects by such artists as The National, Arcade Fire, and Grizzly Bear.
Nadia is a member of the acclaimed chamber sextet yMusic. Their virtuosic execution and unique configuration have attracted high profile collaborators including Ben Folds, Son Lux, Anohni, and The Staves, and inspired an expanding repertoire of original works by prominent composers including Andrew Norman, Caroline Shaw, and Chris Thile. This Spring and Summer, yMusic is proud to join legendary artist Paul Simon on stages around the world for his “Homeward Bound” Farewell Tour.
Nadia has received the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for her work in radio, and Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Prize, awarded to pioneering artists and scholars with an emerging international profile. She sits on the board of directors of Chamber Music America, the national service organization for ensemble music professionals. Nadia received her undergraduate and Master’s degrees from the Juilliard School, where she studied with Heidi Castleman, Misha Amory, and Hsin-Yun Huang.
Javier Morales Martinez, 2018 Horton Kohl Soloist
Javier Morales Martinez, age 17, is currently a senior at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. Javier is attending the University of Southern California in the fall of 2018. He is a recipient of a Herbert Zipper Scholarship at the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts, where he has been a student since 2013. Javier studies clarinet with Michael Yoshimi and music theory with Kathy Sawada. He is principal clarinet of the Colburn Youth Orchestra directed by Maxim Eshkenazy and the Wind Ensemble directed by Darren Mulder.
In 2017, Javier won second prize at the Backun International Clarinet Competition, first prize in the Mondavi Center Young Artists National Competition, second prize in the International Clarinet Association’s High School Solo Competition, a merit award in the National YoungArts Awards, Honorable Mention in The Music Center’s Spotlight Awards, and appeared on NPR’s nationally broadcast program, From the Top, where he was awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship. And in 2015 he was a winner of the Michele Zukovsky Clarinet Competition. Most recently, he has been named a semifinalist in The Music Center’s Spotlight Awards and his trio has advanced to the semifinal round of the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, as well as M-Prize, University of Michigan’s international chamber arts competition. Javier was awarded the Emerson Scholarship in the summer of 2015 to attend the Interlochen Center for the Arts, has attended Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute, and has been a recipient of the Young Musician’s Foundation’s David Weiss Memorial Scholarship.
Amir ElSaffar, 2018 Composer in Residence
Trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer Amir ElSaffar has distinguished himself with a mastery of diverse musical traditions and a singular approach to combining Middle Eastern musical languages with jazz and other styles of contemporary music. A recipient of the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artists Award, ElSaffar has been described as “uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music without doing either harm,” (the Wire) and “one of the most promising figures in jazz today” (Chicago Tribune).
ElSaffar is an expert trumpeter with a classical background, conversant not only in the language of contemporary jazz, but has created techniques to play microtones and ornaments idiomatic to Arabic music that are not typically heard on the trumpet.
Additionally, he is a purveyor of the centuries old, now endangered, Iraqi maqam tradition, which he performs actively as a vocalist and santur player. As a composer, ElSaffar has used the microtones found in maqam music to create an innovative approach to harmony and melody. Described as “an imaginative bandleader, expanding the vocabulary of the trumpet and at the same time the modern jazz ensemble,” (All About Jazz), ElSaffar is an important voice in an age of cross-cultural music making.
In addition to performing and composing, ElSaffar is Music Curator at Alwan for the Arts, New York's hub for Arab and Middle Eastern culture, which hosts semi-monthly concerts and the annual Maqam Fest. In 2013, he collaborated with the Metropolitan Museum to create a festival of Iraqi culture in 2013. He also teaches maqam classes at Alwan, and is the director of the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble at Columbia University, where he also teaches jazz ensembles.
ElSaffar attended DePaul University, earning a degree in classical trumpet, and had the opportunity to study with the legendary principal trumpeter of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Bud Herseth. As a trumpeter of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, ElSaffar worked with esteemed conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Daniel Barenboim.
He currently leads four critically-acclaimed ensembles: Two Rivers, which combines the musical languages and instrumentation of Iraqi Maqam and contemporary jazz; the Amir ElSaffar Quintet, performing ElSaffar's microtonal compositions with standard jazz instrumentation; Safaafir, the only ensemble in the US performing and preserving the Iraqi Maqam in its traditional format; and The Alwan Ensemble, the resident ensemble of Alwan for the Arts, specializing in classical music from Egypt, the Levant, and Iraq.
Anna Wittstruck, Conducting Fellow
Anna Wittstruck joined the University of Puget Sound School of Music faculty as Assistant Professor, Director of Orchestra in 2017. Before that she spent two years at Stanford University as Acting Assistant Professor, serving as Interim Music Director and Conductor of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and Stanford Philharmonia.
Wittstruck has conducted concerts across the United States, in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. She has appeared as a guest conductor with the Harbin Symphony in China and as the 2017 Conducting Fellow with the Eastern Sierra Symphony. She conducted concerts at Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and Teatro Nacional de Cuba in Havana, where she performed with Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba and the Chamber Orchestra of Havana. In 2013 she conducted the first-ever symphonic concert on Catalina Island and returned with her ensemble the following three seasons. She has conducted concerts at the Rudolfinum in Prague and the Musikzentrum Augarten in Vienna, as well as concerts in Berlin, Bad Elster, and Teplice.
Wittstruck is also an active orchestral musician whose performances as a cellist span from the Beijing Modern Music Festival to the 2011 YouTube Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. She won a blind audition at the age of fourteen to become the youngest contracted member of the Asheville Symphony, and has participated in orchestra festivals such as Tanglewood, Round Top, and the National Symphony/Kennedy Center Institute. She has appeared as a soloist with the Charlotte and Hendersonville Symphonies, on the Public Radio International show, “From the Top,” and with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra.
Wittstruck received her Bachelor of Arts in Music from Princeton University with certificates in orchestral conducting and creative writing, and her PhD in musicology from Stanford University. Conducting teachers include Kenneth Kiesler, Michael Jinbo, Michael Pratt, Jindong Cai, and Edwin Outwater.