Our Music Director

Alastair Willis

Alastair Willis Grammy nominated conductor ALASTAIR WILLIS is the Music Director of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.  In past seasons, Willis has guest conducted   orchestras around the world including the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Mexico City Philharmonic, Orquestra Sinfonica de Rio de Janeiro, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonic, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, China National Orchestra (Beijing), and Silk Road Ensemble (with Yo-Yo Ma) among others.  His recording of Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les Sortileges” with Nashville Symphony and Opera for Naxos was Grammy nominated for Best Classical Album in 2009.

Alastair Willis recently completed a successful four-year tenure as Music Director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.  Last season he was re-engaged by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, Victoria Symphony B.C., North Carolina Symphony, Dresden Philharmonic, Orquestra Sinfonica Barra Mansa, Symphonia Boca Raton, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Orchestra Seattle/Seattle Chamber Singers, and made his debuts with the Wichita Symphony, Boise Philharmonic, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, South Bend Symphony Orchestra and Roosevelt Contemporary Ensemble.  This season he returns to Gyor Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boca Raton Symphonia, and makes his debut with Philharmonie Südwestfalen.

Previous positions include Principal Guest Conductor with the Florida Orchestra’s Coffee Concert series 2008-2011, Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony 2000-2003, Assistant Conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, and Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Born in Acton, Massachusetts, Willis lived with his family in Moscow for five years before settling in Surrey, England.  He received his bachelor’s degree with honors from England’s Bristol University, an Education degree from Kingston University, and a Masters of Music degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Willis currently resides in Seattle, and is looking forward to making South Bend his second home!

"I look forward to many magical concerts with the passionate and skillful musicians of the SBSO.  I want to see our contribution to the quality of life and the arts in South Bend continue deepen and become ever more meaningful."

A Message from Alastair

Welcome to the SBSO’s 2018-19 season!  I am incredibly excited to share my second season in South Bend with you!  Our season is a bold mixture of new and old, full of variety that will continue to thrill our entire community, enrich the cultural landscape of South Bend, and offer life-changing experiences through the power of live orchestral music.  I’m particularly excited about three aspects of this upcoming Season:

1. To celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, we will present the Beethoven Cycle: three Beethoven symphonies per season over the next three years.  Each Beethoven symphony will be paired with music by today’s top living composers – who in another 250 years may be considered ‘Beethovens” of our time.  This season, alongside Beethoven’s symphonies 1, 2 and 7 will be music by Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Mason Bates.

2. We will embark upon a musical journey along the Silk Road! I am thrilled to present Dinuk Wijeratne’s Tabla Concerto and Colin Jacobsen’s Ascending Bird (Masterworks V) as pivotal aspects of an adventure that we hope will expand our own horizons and concept of world music.

3. We start a series that combines my love of music and theater, a production that takes the life and times of Tchaikovsky as seen through the eyes of his friend and fellow composer Rimsky-Korsakov.  This historical, semi-staged dramatic exploration featuring some of the greatest Russian music ever composed gives us new insights and appreciation of Tchaikovsky’s genius.

Apart from the enchanting programs we have planned for you this Season, I am thrilled to introduce three world-class soloists: IUSB’s newly appointed Martin Endowed Professor of Piano, Tanya Gabrelian (Masterworks III) cellist Joshua Roman (Masterworks IV), and tabla virtuoso Sandeep Das (Masterworks V).  The South Bend Symphony is also excited about working with the South Bend Chamber Singers (Mosaic 3), presenting a world premier by Notre Dame’s professor of composition, John Liberatore (Mosaic 1), and collaborating with IUSB’s choir for our MLK Celebration concert.  I look forward to our annual partnership with the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County at community play-along concert at Chris Wilson Pavilion, continuing serving our schools with the interactive Carnegie Hall Shine Family Young People’s Discovery Concerts, and welcoming the even younger members of our community to the Family Spooktacular! concert.

In addition to our Masterworks series, our Indiana Trust Pops Series will include absolute blockbusters that are suitable for the whole family: Disney in Concert, Dancing and Romancing, and Out of This World: A Sci-Fi Spectacular.  Also, don’t forget to save the date now for our most popular concert of the season: Home for the Holidays!

At the heart of everything we do are our talented, committed, and incredible musicians.  My deepest gratitude goes to them, our board, staff, patrons, and volunteers for their generous support and tireless dedication.  They truly make this institution remarkable.  Lastly, thank YOU for your continued support and curiosity - we love performing for you, and can’t wait to welcome you to every concert of this exciting new season! Here’s to creating new memories and great music together!


Maestro Willis will conduct all 2018-19 Season concerts!


For more information about Alastair Willis,

visit alastairwillis.com

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(574) 232-6343

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(574) 235-9190

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(574) 631-2800