Instructor Bios

Vance George

vance george

Chorus Director Emeritus of The San Francisco Symphony,
Vance George is esteemed internationally as one of the preeminent choral conductors of our time, having led concerts throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. In addition to San Francisco, recent performances have been heard in Akron, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Reno, Spokane, Springfield (MA), Toledo, Salzburg and Sydney, as well as at the Berkshire Choral Festival and Ventura Bach Festival. Vance George’s unique range of musical styles, knowledge of languages, mastery of vocal colors and synthesis of choral-orchestral tradition have been lauded by audiences, critics and conductors. His work embodies the legacy of the great maestri and mentors he has known, both as protégé and colleague, especially Kurt Masur, John Nelson, Helmuth Rilling, Edo de Waart, Herbert Blomstedt, Michael Tilson Thomas, Robert Shaw, Julius Herford, Margaret Hillis, Robert Page, Otto-Werner Mueller and Mary Oyer.

Born into a farm community in Northern Indiana, near Chicago, Vance George’s musical training began at Goshen College, followed by teaching and conducting adventures in Mussoorie in Northern India at Woodstock School, at the University of Wisconsin, then as Associate Director of The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, the Blossom Festival School and Kent State University. In 1983, Vance George was appointed Chorus Director of The San Francisco Symphony, resulting in a 23-year, critically acclaimed, award-filled tenure. During this time, the ensemble was consistently hailed as one of the finest in the world, earning Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance in 1992 (Orff’s Carmina burana) and 1995 (Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem). Other Grammy-winning recordings featuring the San Francisco Symphony Chorus include Stravinsky’s Perséphone and Mahler’s Symphony #3, while the ensemble also garnered Grammy nominations for Mahler’s Symphony #2 and the holiday album, Christmas by the Bay. A televised production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, released on DVD, was honored with an Emmy Award. The discography of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus under Vance George’s direction includes Voices 1900/2000, A Choral Journey Through the 20th Century; John Adams’s Harmonium, with the composer conducting; Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied; Grieg’s Peer Gynt; and a Brahms collection, including Nänie and Schicksalslied. Film soundtracks featuring the Chorus include Amadeus, Godfather II and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Vance George replaced Sir Charles Mackerras on the podium, when he fell ill during performances of Händel’s Solomon and stepped in for Edo de Waart for performances of the Mozart edition of Händel’s Messiah. His own concerts with the San Francisco forces include Messiah and Bach’s Mass in b minor, as well as a host of seasonal and Pops programs. Mr. George’s other performances encompass the major choral/orchestral repertoire, including the Passions of Bach and the works of Beethoven, Brahms, Fauré, Haydn, Mozart, Poulenc, Stravinsky and Verdi, while 20th Century compositions are represented by Lutoslawski, Meredith Monk, Penderecki, Schoenberg, Vaughan Williams and Walton.

Highly sought after as a teacher of conducting, Vance George has taught, led workshops and presented lectures at many prestigious institutions of higher education, including the Eastman School of Music, The San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Brooklyn College and the universities of California-Berkeley, Cincinnati, Indiana, Kent State, Massachusetts/Amherst and Wisconsin. He has written on the subject of conducting for The Cambridge Companion to Conducting (Cambridge University Press, 2003), and his article, "Choral Conducting," appeared in the American Choral Director’s Journal (October, 2007).

Vance George is a graduate of Goshen College and Indiana University. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Musical Arts by Kent State University and a Lifetime Achievement award by Chorus America. In 2011, he received Goshen College’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. Mr. George has served on the Board of Chorus America and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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Michael Palmer

michael palmer
Michael Palmer has held the post as artistic director of the Bellingham Festival of Music since 1993. Under his leadership, the Festival has become internationally recognized, and live recordings from its annual concerts have been heard across the United States on National Public Radio, featuring some of the world’s finest orchestral musicians and major guest artists.

Michael Palmer has long been considered one of this country’s finest conductors. His professional career began at age 21, when he was invited by Robert Shaw to become assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, where he was soon promoted to associate conductor.

After 10 years in Atlanta with ASO, Palmer accepted the post of music director of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra in 1977. While at Wichita he also served as guest conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra (1978 – 1981), and was co-principal guest conductor of the Denver Symphony Orchestra (1979-1982.

From 1989 to 1997, Michael Palmer assumed the post of music director of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

In 1994, Carnegie Hall invited Palmer and the NHSO to perform in New York City as part of their esteemed Visiting Orchestras Series. In 1991 Palmer founded the American Sinfonietta, which toured Europe for ten years and served as the resident orchestra for the Bellingham Festival of Music. Under his leadership they played to critical acclaim in major concert halls in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Over the course of his career, Michael Palmer has made appearances as guest conductor with many US Orchestras, including the Rochester Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Kansas City Philharmonic San Diego Symphony, as well as orchestras in Austria, Poland, China, and most recently in Greece.

Palmer returned to Atlanta in August of 2004 as director of orchestras for Georgia State University, which in 2006 honored him with the title of Charles Thomas Wurm Distinguished Professor of Orchestral Studies.

Visit Mr. Palmer's website here.

Page Updated 01.25.2013