Maestro Michael Palmer is the founder and artistic director of the Bellingham Festival of Music. Maestro Palmer is enjoying his 51st year of professional conducting, after being appointed associate conductor of the Atlanta Symphony at just 21 years old. In our discussion with Maestro Palmer, he thrills us with stories of legendary musicians, connections to the great composers, and some beautiful insights on what makes music important to him.
Michael Palmer has long been considered one of this country’s finest conductors. Mr. Palmer began his career at age 21, when he came to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as assistant conductor at the invitation of Robert Shaw. He was soon made associate conductor, and also founded and was music director of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. While in Atlanta, Michael Palmer was honored as one of five of the first conductors in the United States chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts to be Exxon Arts Endowment Conductor, and he was soon in demand with orchestras throughout the country. While continuing in his post in Atlanta, he was appointed guest conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra for a three-year period. He also worked extensively with the National Symphony Orchestra during this period, and he was, subsequently, named co-principal guest conductor of the Denver Symphony Orchestra.
After 10 years in Atlanta as associate conductor, Mr. Palmer accepted appointments as music director of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra followed by the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. In New Haven, he was recognized widely for his artistic accomplishments and for building the Orchestra to one of the finest of its kind in the nation. Carnegie Hall invited Michael Palmer and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra to make their New York debut on its distinguished Visiting Orchestra Series in 1994. During his tenure as music director in New Haven, Mr. Palmer founded the American Sinfonietta, which toured Europe for 10 seasons under his leadership, playing to critical acclaim in the major concert halls of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This led to the creation of the Bellingham Festival of Music in 1993. Under his artistic leadership, the Festival has become internationally recognized for its artistry. Festival concerts are heard across the nation on NPR and feature some of the finest orchestral musicians and major guest artists from the United States and abroad. As Artistic Director since its formation, Mr. Palmer continues to lead the Festival each summer. He also maintains an active international guest conducting season each year and most recently, he maintains a working relationship with one of China’s premiere orchestras, the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra.
Michael Palmer joined the Georgia State University (GSU) School of Music faculty as Director of Orchestras in August 2004. In 2006, he was honored by GSU and named as the Charles Thomas Wurm Distinguished Professor of Orchestral Studies.
In addition to his regular concerts at the Bellingham Festival of Music and at GSU, he conducted the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, as well as a special performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.
The Bellingham Festival of Music, Maestro Palmer’s vision and success.
Maestro Palmer conducting the orchestra at his Alma Mater, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of WWI.
This performance of Claudio Arrau performing the Brahms Concerto No 1 is referenced in our discussion.