History

The Conductors Guild was founded in 1975 at the San Diego Conference of the American Symphony Orchestra League (League of American Orchestras), and it continued for a decade as a subsidiary of that organization. In 1985 the Guild became independent. Since 1985, the Guild has expanded its services and solidified its role as a collective voice for conductors’ interests everywhere. It is supported by membership dues and donations, grants, and program fees, and is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation.

 

  • Harold Farberman (1975-1979)
  • Charles A. Ansbacher (1979-1981, 1986)
  • Maurice Peress (1981-1983)
  • Donald Portnoy (1983-1986)
  • Samuel Jones (1987-1988)
  • Evan Whallon (1989-1990)
  • Michael Charry (1991-1992)
  • Larry Newland (1993-1994)
  • Adrian Gnam (1995-1996)
  • Barbara Schubert (1997-1998)
  • Wes Kenney (1999-2000)
  • Harlan Parker (2001-2002)
  • Emily Freeman Brown (2003-2004)
  • Tonu Kalam (2005-2006)
  • Sandra Dackow (2007-2008)
  • Michael Griffith (2009-2010)
  • James Allen Anderson (2011-2013)
  • Gordon Johnson (2013-2015)
  • John Farrer (2015-present)

In June of 1974, at the American Symphony Orchestra League’s National Conference held in Memphis, Tennessee, several conductors gathered together to informally discuss problems germane to conductors. Out of those discussions was born the Conductors Guild. During the year that followed, ground work to establish a meaningful organization for conductors which would be run by conductors was begun.

At the 1975 ASOL Conference in San Diego, a slate of candidates was put before the attending conductors and the first Conductors Guild Officers and Board Members were elected. At that time each Board Member and several appointed Committeemen were given a specific assignment; i.e. to research and investigate one area of interest or concern to conductors. It was the Guild’s intent to read these papers at the 1976 League Conference and to place a synopsis of each paper into the hands of all member conductors for their personal use. These papers dealt with such areas as the conductor’s relationship to managers, unions, critics, I.C.S.O.M., orchestra committees, symphony boards, audition procedures, etc. Studies were also made on such topics as foreign conductors on American podiums, conducting competitions in the United States, recordings, conductor contracts, etc.

During the 1976 ASOL Conference in Boston, the Conductors Guild held its first official Conductors Guild meetings. The assembled conductors elected three new Board Members, heard the reading of most of the aforementioned papers and studies, approved a set of Bylaws, and sponsored two sessions of live symphonic music. The first session featured Dr. Richard Lert who conducted the U.S. Army Chamber Orchestra in an open rehearsal concert of Haydn’s “London” Symphony. The second session co-produced with the College, Conservatory and University Division of the League presented the Portland (ME) Symphony performing the works of three American composers: Gerhard Samuel conducted his own “Cold When the Drum Sounds for Dawn”; Norman Dello Joio conducted his “Colonial Variants” and Maestro Fedor Kabalin conducted Ulysses Kay’s “Fantasy Variations” with Mr. Kay in attendance. Mr. Kabalin’s name was drawn from a box containing the names of all the prospective conductors by Dr. Lert. While in Boston, members of the Executive Board of the C.G. met with the chairman of I.C.S.O.M. and two B.S.O. I.C.S.O.M. representatives to discuss areas of mutual concern. Following this discussion three C.G. Board Members were invited to attend the I.C.S.O.M. National Conference in Denver in late August.

During the 1976-77 Season, the C.G. sent to all member conductors copies of its Bylaws together with synopses of several papers read in Boston. Since the C.G. [was] affiliated with the League, an Ex-Officio member of the Conductors Guild Executive Board [represented] the Guild at all League Board Meetings.

At the January 1977 mid-winter meetings held in New York City the Guild Executive Board made plans for its presentations at the League Conference to be held this year [1977] in New Orleans. The C.G. will again present two sessions of live music; one will feature a renowned maestro conducting an open rehearsal/performance; the other will present three American works with guest composers and conductors.

The Conductors Guild presently represents a strong moral and professional force that is addressing itself to the problems and aspirations of American conductors. We urge all conductors to become involved. Several major announcements will be made at the New Orleans Conference. A slate of four Officers and three Board Members will be elected. It is hoped that member conductors will make every effort to participate in these meetings and orchestral presentations.

– Author Unknown, 1977, from CG Office Archives