Allen Tinkham, Music Director

Allen Tinkham is increasingly recognized as one of the most inspiring and exciting conductors and teachers of his generation. He is hailed by the Chicago Tribune as both a conductor and teacher, described as working “wonders” as one of the most important “educators, mentors and inspirational guides in the training of tomorrow’s orchestral professionals” and defined by his “communicative” conducting producing “an adrenalin rush of superior playing.”

Under his leadership as the longtime Music Director of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO), both the Chicago Tribune
and Chicago Sun Times 
have described performances by the
 CYSO Symphony Orchestra as “professional level,” 
and under his baton, the Chicago Tribune
 has noted his “impressive” conducting and “uncanny control” and has compared the
 CYSO Symphony Orchestra’s 
”ferocity and theatricality” 
to that of the Chicago 
Symphony Orchestra.

As Music Director of CYSO, Tinkham oversees all artistic programming and faculty and leads the CYSO Symphony Orchestra throughout Chicago each season in performances in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Tinkham has also performed at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center, Ravinia Festival, and Millennium Park’s Harris Theater and Grant Park Music Festival.

Season highlights with CYSO include performances at the Ear Taxi New Music Festival and the Midwest Clinic as well as collaborations with Rachel Barton Pine, CYSO Composer-in-Residence Glenn Kotche, and Google Tilt Brush Artist-in-Residence Teek van ti Mach. Tinkham also leads the CYSO Symphony Orchestra on tour in June to Central Europe in a program including Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony and Elgar’s In the South.

In his first season as Music Director of the CYSO, Tinkham led the Symphony Orchestra in its Carnegie Hall debut and has since led five tours to Europe, South America, and China. He also conducted the orchestra in its first live broadcast performance
and recording release. Today, WFMT regularly records CYSO Symphony Orchestra live performances for broadcast including the critically acclaimed 
performance of Stravinsky’s 
The Rite of Spring.

As an advocate and champion of contemporary music, Allen Tinkham has won nine American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers National Awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music (ASCAP). He has premiered numerous new works for orchestra, including commissions from Augusta Reed Thomas, Marc Anthony Turnage, and Daron Aric Hagen, as well as American premiers such as Gabriel Prokofiev’s Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra.

In 2015, Tinkham was appointed Music Director of the Chicago Composers Orchestra (CCO), an ensemble devoted to performing works of living composers. In his first two seasons, he has programmed the works of Pulitzer Prize winners Julia Wolfe, Bernand Rands, George Walker, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, as well as world-renowned composers such as Pierre Boulez and David Lang and the next generation of young composers.

As a respected music educator, Tinkham has led the Civic Orchestra of Chicago in the Chicago Youth In Music Festival, numerous All-State Festival Orchestras across the U.S., and summer music festivals from the Oklahoma Summer Art Institute to the Sewanee Summer Music Festival. Tinkham also teaches conducting at Columbia College of Chicago in the MFA program in Music Composition for the Screen, the only graduate music program in the school.

For six seasons, Tinkham was the Assistant Conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s famous holiday concerts. Guest conducting engagements have included the Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Symphony, Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, and the Adrian Symphony Orchestra. Tinkham has also been a cover conductor for major orchestras including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Born in Rhode Island
to music teachers of English
and Lebanese descent, Tinkham began
the French Horn at age eleven
and Double Bass at age fifteen. Following graduation from the
 Eastman School of Music, Tinkham was the 
youngest recipient of the
 Helen and Clyde Wu
 Conducting Fellowship at
 the University of Michigan
 for the Master of Conducting. He continued his conducting studies for several summers at the American Academy of Conducting of the Aspen Music Festival.

Tinkham’s principal teachers were David Effron, Murry Sidlin, Kenneth Kiesler, David Zinman, and James DePreist, and he also received coaching from Christoph Eschenbach, Gerard Schwarz, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Gustav Meier, Jorma Panula, and David Robertson. Tinkham began his conducting career as Apprentice Conductor at the Oregon Symphony Orchestra and was appointed Music Director of the CYSO in 2000, the youngest to win the post in its history.

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