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.
Last season Willis was re-engaged by the Seattle Symphony, Gyor Philharmonic, The Symphonia Boca Raton, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Orchestra Seattle/Seattle Chamber Singers, and made his debut with the Philharmonie Südwestfalen. This season he returns to the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, Victoria Symphony B.C., Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Symphonia Boca Raton, and makes his debuts with Peninsula Music Festival, Fox Valley Symphony, La Porte Symphony, Salute to Vienna, and Seattle’s Music of Remembrance.
Previous positions include Music Director of the Illinois Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor with the Florida Orchestra’s Coffee Concert series, Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony, 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.
"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 2019-20 season - my third as Music Director, but my first as an official South Bend resident! My family and I moved here from Seattle in July, and are loving adjusting to our new home town.
The orchestra and I are extremely excited to continue being a source of life and vitality for the community, and offer musical experiences which inspire on many levels. Each program expresses something about who we are, and where we are going together.
Our Beethoven symphony cycle continues, again paired with music by today’s top living composers. Alongside Beethoven’s 3rd, 6th and 4th symphonies we’ll hear music by award-winning composers Tan Dun, Anna Clyne, and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky.
Our musical journey along the Silk Road will continue to expand our collective horizons and concepts of world music. In February we welcome Wu Man, Musical America’s Musician of the Year in 2013, to play Tan Dun’s Pipa Concerto. Iranian composer Behzad Ranjbaran’s exotic “Seven Passages” will beguile us, and in March, we’ll feature one of the Silk Road Ensemble’s favorite composers, Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky.
“Alastair Presents”, our series that combines music and theatrical elements, will explore Vienna’s musical riches during the time of Mozart, as seen through the eyes of Sigmund Haffner, for whom Mozart composed his Symphony No.35. We’ll be joined by Southold Dance Theater.
Other highlights include Mahler’s Second Symphony “Resurrection” featuring two phenomenal vocalists, Renee Tatum and Caitlyn Lynch, and the Notre Dame Chorale and the South Bend Chamber Singers. Violin legend Ilya Kaler will lead Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, a concert that will also feature music by Missy Mazzioli. American pianist Jon Kimura Parker will join us for Tchaikovsky’s beloved piano concerto, paired with Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and Nadia Boulanger’s D’un Matin du Printemps.
Our Indiana Trust Pops series surprises and delights with Women Rock, Hollywood Hits, and in April we will partner with the South Bend Civic Theater in a full production of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. And don’t forget to save the date now for our most popular concert of the season: Home for the Holidays!
I look forward to our annual partnership with the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County at community play-along concert at Chris Wilson Pavilion, and delighting the younger members of our community with a performance of the “Polar Express” at our Family concert.
Guest conductor Nadege Foofat will lead our Shein Family Young Persons Discovery Concerts, and we welcome back Chelsea Tipton II to conduct our MLK Celebration concert.
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 this season!
Your fellow Hoosier,