JAHJA LING, MUSIC DIRECTOR
Jahja Ling’s distinguished career as an internationally renowned conductor has earned him an exceptional reputation for musical integrity, intensity and expressivity. The 2012-13 season marks his ninth season as Music Director of the San Diego Symphony. The orchestra’s performances conducted by Mr. Ling have received the highest praise from public and critics alike having been broadcast both locally and nationally. Mr. Ling and the Symphony have recently released seven new live recordings (the Symphony’s first in a decade). Together they have recorded new works of Bright Sheng for Telarc Records (released in summer of 2009) and a new CD of Lucas Richman’s Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant and Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals with soloists Jon Kimura Parker and Orli Shaham distributed by Naxos. Under his leadership, the San Diego Symphony has been designated a Tier One major orchestra by the League of American Symphony Orchestras, based on a new level of unprecedented artistic excellence, its continuing increase in audience attendance, as well as its solid financial stability. Mr. Ling’s contract has recently been extended by the Symphony’s Board on an evergreen basis.
Jahja Ling is the first and only conductor of Chinese descent who holds a music director position with a major orchestra in the US, and he has conducted all of the major symphony orchestras in North America including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. In recent and upcoming seasons Mr. Ling returns as guest conductor with The Cleveland Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Jakarta Symphony, Macao Symphony, Philharmonia Taiwan (National Symphony of Taiwan), Royal Philharmonic of London, Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Vancouver Symphony as well as Yale Philharmonia and Curtis Symphony Orchestra. In June of 2012 he conducted the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra in Berlin’s O2 World arena on the occasion of Lang Lang’s 30th birthday concert with Lang Lang, Herbie Hancock and 50 young pianists from around the world. The concert (attended by more than 10,000 people) was also telecast live by German and Spanish TV.
Mr. Ling made his European debut with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1988 to great acclaim. His other engagements abroad have taken him to the Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne, the China Philharmonic in Beijing, the Copenhagen Philharmonic, the MDR Symphony Orchestra in Leipzig, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, the NDR Radio-Philharmonie in Hannover, the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, the Orchestre Nationale du Capitole de Toulouse, Royal Philharmonic of London, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the Stockholm Philharmonic, and Tokyo’s Yomiuri Nippon Symphony. In May 1997, Mr. Ling led the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on tour to Hong Kong as part of the celebrations marking the return of Hong Kong to China. In May 2000 his debut performance with the St. Louis Symphony and cellist Yo-Yo Ma was featured on the ABC News program 20/20. In 2001 Mr. Ling was invited to conduct the Super World Orchestra, an orchestra comprised of top principals of 30 of the most prominent orchestras in Europe, America, and Asia for performances in Osaka and Tokyo. In 2009 he also conducted the Worldwide Chinese Festival Orchestra in the new National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, an orchestra comprised of the best Chinese musicians who hold major positions with the most prestigious orchestras around the world. His performance was telecast by Chinese Central Television (CCTV) and was available for streaming in internet video on their website. Phoenix Television in China also telecast an hour of profile of his musical journey to a worldwide audience.
Mr. Ling is acclaimed not only for his interpretation of the standard repertoire, but also for the breadth of contemporary music included in his programs. Among the world premieres he has conducted are works by William Bolcom, Paul Chihara, Gordon Chin, Daniel Kellogg, George Perle, Bright Sheng, Alvin Singleton, Augusta Read Thomas, Michael Torke, Mark Anthony Turnage and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, with orchestras such as The Cleveland Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and San Diego Symphony, among others.
Mr. Ling holds one of the longest continuous relationships with one of the world's greatest orchestras, The Cleveland Orchestra. In 2008-09 season he celebrated his 25th anniversary season with that esteemed ensemble with performances at Severance Hall and Blossom Festival. He first served as Associate Conductor in the 1984-85 season, then as Resident Conductor for 17 years from 1985-2002 and as Blossom Festival Director for 6 seasons (2000-2005). Since then he has continued to appear as guest conductor of the Orchestra in every season. In his tenure with the Orchestra, he has conducted over 450 concerts and 600 works including many world premiere performances. Among his distinguished services as Resident Conductor, Mr. Ling led the orchestra’s annual concert in downtown Cleveland, heard by more than a million people since first presented in 1990. His telecast of A Concert in Tribute and Remembrance with the Orchestra for 9/11 received an Emmy® Award. The U.S. House of Representatives presented a Congressional Record of his outstanding achievements in the U.S. Capitol in September 2006. Prior to his Cleveland appointment, Mr. Ling served as Assistant and Associate Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. Deeply committed to education, Mr. Ling served as founding Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (1986-1993) and the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (1981-84). Mr. Ling also demonstrates a strong commitment to working with young musicians and has conducted the orchestras of the Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute and the Aspen Music Festival.
His tenure as Music Director of the Florida Orchestra (1988 -2003) was a notable artistic success, both in the Tampa Bay region and beyond. The significant contribution he made to the cultural life of the area was recognized by the mayors of Tampa and St. Petersburg, who presented him with keys to the city in April 2002 and further honored him through a declaration of “Jahja Ling Day” in February 1998, With the Florida Orchestra, Jahja Ling was the first conductor ever invited to appear at the Superbowl (XXV) in 1991 with Whitney Houston performing the National Anthem, and the audio and video of that performance earned platinum records. He was named Music Director Laureate in 2002. Additionally, Mr. Ling served as Artistic Director of the Taiwan Philharmonia (National Symphony Orchestra) from 1998-2001 and was named their honorary conductor thereafter.
Mr. Ling’s recordings for Telarc include the Dupré Organ Symphony and the Rheinberger Organ Concerto with soloist Michael Murray and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and two albums of baroque works with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (the first of which, with trumpeter Rolf Smedvig, was nominated for a Grammy® Award). In 1998, Azica Records released a disc with Mr. Ling and the Florida Orchestra entitled Symphonic Dances, featuring Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Strauss’s Rosenkavalier Suite, and Ravel’s Suite No. 2 from Daphnis and Chloé. Mr. Ling and the Florida Orchestra have also recorded Stephen Montague’s From the White Edge of Phrygia for Continuum. His performance with the New York Philharmonic of the world premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Third Symphony is featured in a recent compact disc collection of philharmonic performances entitled American Celebrations. In addition, The Cleveland Orchestra has released a special edition compact disc featuring Mr. Ling and the orchestra performing Saint-Saëns’ Symphony for the rededication of Severance Hall’s Norton Memorial Organ.
Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, of Chinese descent and now an American citizen, Mr. Ling began to play the piano at age four and studied at the Jakarta School of Music. At age 17, he won the Jakarta Piano Competition and, one year later, was awarded a Rockefeller grant to attend The Juilliard School, where he studied piano with Mieczyslaw Munz and conducting with John Nelson. After completing a master’s degree at Juilliard, he studied orchestral conducting at the Yale School of Music under Otto-Werner Mueller and received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1985. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate by Wooster College in 1993. In the summer of 1980 Mr. Ling was granted the Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellowship at Tanglewood, and two years later was selected by Mr. Bernstein, who became one of his most influential mentors, to be a Conducting Fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute. In 1988 Mr. Ling was a recipient of the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductor’s Award, a career development grant made to American conductors of extraordinary promise.
As a pianist, Mr. Ling won a bronze medal at the 1977 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Israel and was awarded a certificate of honor at the following year’s Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow. He made his Cleveland Orchestra debut as a pianist in 1987 and has appeared as both soloist and conductor with a number of orchestras in the United States and internationally.
Mr. Ling makes his home in San Diego with his wife, Jessie, and their young daughters Priscilla and Stephanie. More information can be found at www.jahjaling.com.