The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has announced that Kwamé Ryan, hailed as a “dynamic conductor” by The Baltimore Sun, will assume the role of the Orchestra’s next Music Director beginning in 2024–25, ushering in a new era for the CSO’s 93rd season. Ryan will serve as Music Director Designate through the remainder of the 2023–24 season and will lead two performances of Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme April 5–6, 2024.
“Having witnessed his artistry and extraordinary musicianship in action with the Charlotte Symphony during his recent appearances, I am confident that Kwamé Ryan embodies all of the qualities essential for an exceptional Music Director,” said President and CEO David Fisk. “As a dynamic leader who understands the full potential of the relationship between an orchestra and its community, Kwamé will undoubtedly deepen the Charlotte Symphony’s service to Charlotte and the region, and, with his passion for music education, bring extraordinary, powerful music making to a wider audience of all ages.”
Born in Canada and raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, Kwamé Ryan discovered his passion for conducting at the age of nine. He studied Musicology at Cambridge University and trained in conducting under renowned composer/conductor Peter Eötvös. Ryan previously held the position of General Music Director of Freiburg Opera, and served as Musical and Artistic Director of the National Orchestra of Bordeaux Aquitaine. An active guest conductor, Ryan has led orchestras across the United States including the Baltimore, Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston symphonies, while his international credits include London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, the BBC Proms, Brussels’ Theatre La Monnaie, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Opera Bastille in Paris. In the fall of 2023, Ryan conducted the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Intelligence at Houston Grand Opera. In the spring of 2024, he will make his debut with Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the New York Philharmonic.
When not on the podium, Ryan dedicates his time to educational and community engagement initiatives. He has previously served as Musical Director of the National Youth Orchestra of France and as Director of the Academy for the Performing Arts at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Additionally, Ryan is the host of “8 Minute Idea,” a podcast in which he offers insights, tools, and life hacks.
“On my very first visit to Charlotte, I felt instantly connected with the dynamic energy of the city and then profoundly inspired by the wonderful musicians of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra,” said Kwamé Ryan. “Their dedication to balancing artistic innovation and preservation as a means to engage with their community resonates naturally with my own creative philosophy, and I very much look forward to discovering how this exciting new partnership can enrich the orchestra’s legacy and the cultural fabric of Charlotte.”
In January 2023, Ryan made his Charlotte Symphony debut leading the Orchestra in Copland’s Symphony No. 3, John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine, and Korngold’s Violin Concerto featuring Bella Hristova as soloist. Returning in November 2023, Ryan conducted Verdi’s Requiem, earning acclaim from WDAV critic Lawrence Toppman who noted, “He’s cheerfully animated on the podium, attentive to details, unlikely to linger in places where other conductors might do so… yet unafraid to use silences to make emotional points. He can hold the orchestra in check carefully or let it roar, and it made a monumental sound Saturday.”
As the Charlotte Symphony’s 12th Music Director, Kwamé Ryan will begin his four-year contract in the 2024–25 season, succeeding Christopher Warren-Green after a 12-year tenure.
“I have quite eclectic musical tastes, which are a product of my biography,” Ryan said of his approach to programming on an episode of WDAV’s Piedmont Arts podcast, available on demand. “I’m very enamored of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, all the way through to Mahler and Strauss, [but] Charlotte audiences shouldn’t be surprised to find representation of the rest of my background in programs – be that classical Indian music, or African-inspired music, or certainly North American music, which I enjoy a lot as well. It’s going to be rich, and I think it’s going to be an exciting adventure for the orchestra, for me, and for [the Charlotte Symphony’s] existing and future audiences.”
Pictured: Kwamé Ryan/courtesy Charlotte Symphony.