Appointed the 12th music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in July 2014, American conductor Ward Stare has been described as “a dynamic music director” by CITY Newspaper and “a rising star in the conducting firmament” by the Chicago Tribune. Stare recently made his critically acclaimed debut at the Metropolitan Opera this season conducting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow, with Grammy-winning mezzo soprano Susan Graham in the title role. Other 2017/18 season highlights include world premiere performances of works by celebrated composers Jennifer Higdon and Allen Shawn, commissioned by the RPO, and collaborations with Itzhak Perlman, Inon Barnatan and Isabel Leonard. Stare will also lead a Beethoven Festival and a concert production of Bizet’s Carmen. In recent seasons, maestro Stare has performed with Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Midori and Yo-Yo Ma, and conducted world premieres of multiple works by Academy Award-winning composer Eliot Goldenthal.
On the operatic stage, Stare has in recent seasons led productions at the Lyric Opera of Chicago (Porgy and Bess, Die Fledermaus, Hansel und Gretel), Washington National Opera (L’Elisir d’amore), Opera Theatre of St. Louis (Il Tabarro & Pagliacci, Dialogues of the Carmelites), and made his international opera debut at the Norwegian National Opera with Britten’s The Rape of Lucetia.
As guest conductor, Ward Stare has performed with the major orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, Pittsburgh, as well as at the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago and the New World Symphony in Miami. Internationally, he has guest conducted the Deustches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Sydney Symphony, Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, at the DITTO Festival in Seoul, South Korea, and the Rome Chamber Music Festival in Italy.
Ward Stare began his conducting career at the Los Angeles Philharmonic as the League of American Orchestras Conducting Fellow. After one year in LA, Stare was appointed to the newly-created position of Resident Conductor with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (2008-2012) and made his highly successful Carnegie Hall with the orchestra, stepping in on short notice for Music Director David Robertson to lead H.K. Gruber’s Frankenstein! Since 2012, Stare has returned frequently to St. Louis and enjoys an ongoing relationship with the orchestra.
A passionate advocate for education, Stare has been a Distinguished Artist at the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University since 2012 and has toured with the MCS ensemble both in the U.S. and abroad. In the fall of 2016, Stare recorded and released the MCS’ first album featuring “Concerto for Violin, Rock Band, and String Orchestra” written by R.E.M. bassist and songwriter Mike Mills, and Philip Glass’ Third Symphony, on the Orange Mountain Music label. Rolling Stone magazine praised it as “cinematic but never schmaltzy, rock-inflected but never corny, classical but never stuffy.”
Ward Stare is the recipient of both the Robert J. Harth Conductor Prize (2006) and the Aspen Conducting Prize (2007) at the Aspen Music Festival. He was trained as a trombonist at The Juilliard School in Manhattan. At the age of 18, he was appointed principal trombonist of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and has performed as an orchestral musician with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, among others. As a soloist, he has given performances in the U.S. and Europe.