Geoffrey McDonald - conductor

conductor, violoncello, piano
biography

Hailed by The Philadelphia Inquirer as a "promising and confident" member of the newest generation of conductors, twenty-nine-year-old Geoffrey McDonald commands a broad repertoire with extensive experience in operatic, symphonic, and choral works. He is the music director of the Longy Conservatory Orchestra which, under his leadership, has earned praise as "an ensemble with an impressive level of technical polish and uniform blend" (Boston Classical Review)..."McDonald's leadership of the ensemble was thrilling and dynamic, coaxing a rich sound that resonated satisfyingly...The Gone with the Wind suite was the clear hero of the evening, reveling in a generous performance that clearly understood the breadth of Steiner's motives, presenting them in a wide scope while maintaining significant attention to the minutiae of the score (Boston Musical Intelligencer). 

As a freelance conductor, he has led numerous opera performances ranging from baroque to premieres of contemporary works. His recent performances of Händel's Alcina at the Whitebox Arts Center in downtown Manhattan garnered praise from The New York Times ("Geoffrey McDonald led a performance alert to both the overall momentum and the shape of individual numbers") and Parterre Box ("Geoffrey McDonald led the small, immensely adept ensemble in this vivid and delightful performance"..."the entire occasion is theatrical without compromising musical standards worthy of this brilliant score").  He is also music director of the Bard College Orchestra and an instructor in the Bard College Conservatory's Masters Program in Conducting. 

He served as music director of the Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra from 2010 to 2013, and from 2009 to 2012 he was music director of the Columbia University Bach Society, an orchestra and chorus. He became assistant conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra in 2009, and has participated in their prestigious Summerscape Festival for productions of Schreker's Der Ferne Klang, Strauss' Die Liebe der Danae, Chabrier's Le Roi Malgré Lui, and Sergei Taneyev's Oresteia. He has conducted the American Symphony Orchestra on the stage of the Bard Music Festival, last summer as guest conductor in performances of pieces by Stravinsky and "Les Six" ("Conductor Geoffrey McDonald conjured a delectable blend of sass and refinement from the Bard Festival Chamber Players" - Musical America) and in previous summers led works by Lalo, Hahn, and Merikanto. McDonald also served as assistant conductor of the Gotham Chamber Opera, and Assistant Conductor of the New Amsterdam Singers from 2009 to 2011, earning praise in The New York Times for a "gracefully led" performance of Mark Kilstofte's To Music. An advocate of new opera, Geoff conducted the premiere of Gregory Spears's and Christopher Williams's "dance-opera" Wolf-in-Skins in January of 2013, and has conducted in the American Opera Workshop's new works showcase. He was also the assistant conductor for the workshop and premiere of Nico Muhly's chamber opera Dark Sisters. He is the workshop conductor for Opera Philadelphia's upcoming Charlie Parker's Yardbird by Daniel Schnyder, which will premiere in the summer of 2015. Geoff made his Carnegie Hall debut in the spring of 2012 as one of the conductors of George Crumb's Star-Child, with the American Symphony Orchestra, and has since appeared on the same stage with the ASO in performances of works by Ives and Cage.

McDonald has combined his passion for performance with a strong interest in musical scholarship. Upon earning his bachelors degree (Summa Cum Laude/Phi Beta Kappa) from Princeton University in musicology, he also received the inaugural Edward T. Cone Memorial Prize for excellence in combining music scholarship and performance. As an undergraduate he guest conducted the Princeton University Orchestra and was associate conductor of the Princeton Sinfonia. He was also music director of the Princeton Katzenjammers, the nation's oldest co-ed collegiate a cappella group and an award-winning chamber choir. He earned his masters at Mannes College of Music, where he was the recipient of the Alma Askin Scholarship, the Felix Salzer Techniques of Music Award, and the Mannes Theory Essay Prize for an article on Mahler's Kindertotenlieder.

A native of Philadelphia, McDonald has studied conducting with David Hayes, Phillipe Entremont, and Michael Pratt. He studied piano, cello, and voice, and is an active composer of instrumental and vocal music. He continues to perform on the cello as a member of Miracles of Modern Science, a Brooklyn-based indie rock band who have earned international attention for their infectiously catchy and eccentric chamber pop. 


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Reviews
Moving Music for Moving Images
2014-09-30 webpage, Boston
""The pieces fared well with the Longy Conservatory Orchestra, led by Geoffrey McDonald. McDonald's leadership of the ensemble was thrilling and dynamic, coaxing a rich sound that resonated satisfyingly in the venue. In particular, I was struck by how resonant the histrionics of Psycho fared in the space, transforming an already seething accompaniment to a roiling furor. The Gone with the Wind suite was the clear hero of the evening, reveling in a generous performance that clearly understood the breadth of the Steiner's motives, presenting them in a wide scope while maintaining significant attention to the minutiae of the score.""
(Sudeep Agarwala)
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A Sorceress Stirs Up a Sense of Adventurousness
2014-09-23 newspaper, New York City
""The score [of Alcina], one of Handel's most glorious, was substantially yet smartly trimmed…by Mr. Schlather and the conductor, Geoffrey McDonald, who led a performance alert to both the overall momentum and the shape of individual numbers.""
(Zachary Woolfe)
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