American conductor Emil de Cou appears regularly as guest conductor with orchestras across the United States. After serving as Associate Conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra for eight years, he was recently appointed as Music Director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, a position he began in 2011.
Mr. de Cou was an active participant in a wide range of National Symphony Orchestra performances and events since his debut at Wolf Trap in 2000. He formally joined the National Symphony conducting staff in 2002, and in addition to being Associate Conductor, in the summers he serves as the conductor of the NSO at the Wolf Trap Festival. In that capacity, his responsibilities include leading several of the NSO's concerts at Wolf Trap, and acting as a spokesperson for the overall summer season. He also led the Labor Day Weekend Capitol Concerts on the West Lawn of the US Capitol annually since 2002.
Mr. de Cou has appeared as guest conductor with many leading orchestras, including those of Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Saint Louis, Detroit, Montreal, Boston Pops, Minnesota, Denver, Portland, and San Francisco, where he also served as Principal Pops Conductor. He was acting music director for the San Francisco Ballet and conductor of the American Ballet Theatre for eight seasons conducting performances at Lincoln Center as well as national and international tours.
His performance of the ballet Othello was aired on Great Performances (PBS). The soundtrack by Academy Award winning composer Elliot Goldenthal, was recorded by Mr. de Cou for Varese Sarabande; among his other recordings is a disc entitled Debussy Rediscovered for Arabesque, which includes previously unrecorded works by Debussy.
Mr. de Cou made his Carnegie Hall debut as guest conductor for the New York Pops, and also appeared at the gala tribute to Beverly Sills at Lincoln Center with the Orchestra of St. Luke's and a stellar roster of soloists. His innovative concerts at the Wolf Trap Pavilion have included the first screenings of The Wizard of Oz with the score performed with live orchestra, the first ever live Twitter program notes (Beethoven Pastoral Symphony) and live in-time pod cast for a concert called "Fantastic Planet." In 2008 he conducted the first performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies.
As part of his work as musical consultant for NASA he has conducted several successful collaborations with the nation's space agency, most recently on July 18, "Salute to Apollo, the Kennedy Legacy" at the Kennedy Center in honor of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. The sold-out, multi media performance included film excerpts, narration by Buzz Aldrin, and performances with Denyce Graves, Shaka Khan, and the US Army Chorus. In 2010 he will conduct a multi media concert to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope.
In 1985 de Cou was hired by Mikhail Baryshnikov to be the conductor of the American Ballet Theatre afterward joining the staff of the San Francisco Ballet where he ended his tenure there as music director in 1998. He has also worked with the New York City Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Suzanne Farrell Ballet and others.
Emil de Cou was born in Los Angeles and studied with Daniel Lewis at the University of Southern California. He was the subject of a documentary on National Public Radio and was chosen from 200 candidates to study in Leonard Bernstein's master class at the Hollywood Bowl. He makes his home in San Francisco and Seattle, with his husband (conductor) Leif Bjaland.
"Beethoven's 'Egmont' overture, the centerpiece, made the most of the orchestra's warm, generous sound and de Cou's sense of phrasing and character."
American conductor Emil de Cou is currently the music director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and appears regularly with orchestras across the country. After his debut with the National
Symphony Orchestra in 2000, he joined the orchestra as associate conductor and led the NSO on national tours and at the U.S. Capitol Building. He has remained a regular figure at the Kennedy Center since his first performances here in 1988. This summer will mark his 14th year as the principal conductor for the NSO’s Wolf Trap performances. His innovative concerts there have included the world premiere screenings of The Wizard of Oz with the score performed by live orchestra, the first-ever live-tweeted program notes (Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony), and a live, in real time podcast for a concert called Fantastic Planet. In 2006 he led the NSO in the Wolf Trap premiere of NASA’s images with Holst's The Planets narrated by Leonard Nimoy, and in 2008 he conducted the first performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies
As part of his work as musical consultant for NASA, he has conducted several successful
collaborations with the nation’s space agency, including Human Spaceflight: The Kennedy Legacy, at the Kennedy Center in honor of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s declaration to land a man on the moon. Prior to the performance of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Wolf Trap hosted a pre-performance discussion to mark the 45th anniversary of the moon landing which featured Buzz Aldrin, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and de Cou in a talk about the arts and space exploration. He will lead the NSO in three upcoming performances co-produced by the Kennedy Center and NASA leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
Emil de Cou was hired by Mikhail Baryshnikov to be conductor of the American Ballet Theatre for eight seasons, conducting performances at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, as well as on national and international tours. His performance of the ballet, Othello, was aired on Great Performances (PBS). The soundtrack by Academy Award-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal was recorded by de Cou for Varèse Sarabande; among his other recordings is Debussy Rediscovered for Arabesque, which includes previously unrecorded works by Debussy.
Emil de Cou has appeared with some of the country's leading orchestras such as those of Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Saint Louis, and the Boston Pops. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2006 with the New York Pops Orchestra and was the Principal Pops Conductor for the San Francisco Symphony.
De Cou was born in Los Angeles and studied with Daniel Lewis at the University of Southern California and was chosen to study in Leonard Bernstein’s master class at the Hollywood Bowl. For his ongoing work with NASA, de Cou was awarded the agency’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal by Administrator Charlie Bolden, the first musician to be so honored. He makes his home in San Francisco and Seattle with his husband, conductor Leif Bjaland.