About Teddy Abrams
American composer, conductor, and instrumentalist (piano, clarinet, and organ) Teddy Abrams was named conductor of the Louisville Orchestra in 2014, announcing an aim to bring broad accessibility to the programming of an ensemble that had historically specialized in difficult contemporary works. At the time, he was the youngest conductor of a major American symphony orchestra.
A native of Berkeley, California, Edward Paul Maxwell Abrams was born May 6, 1987. He showed talent on the piano starting at age three and also studied clarinet as a child. Then, at nine, he attended a performance by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas and developed the ambition to become a conductor. He began studying conducting with Tilson Thomas at 12 and completely bypassed middle school and high school, supplementing his music studies with courses at local community colleges. Abrams graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with a bachelor's degree at 18 and went on for further conducting studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Abrams quickly found high-profile posts, winning a three-year conducting fellowship with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach from 2011 and then graduating to posts at the MAV Symphony Orchestra in Hungary and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In the latter post he was responsible for the orchestra's community programs, and he brought a strong orientation toward the wider musical community when he came to Louisville.
A prolific composer, Abrams has led the Louisville Orchestra in more than ten premieres of his own works, including Muhammad Ali Portrait, inspired by the city's most famous native son in the sports world. Under his leadership the orchestra has also collaborated with musicians in the locally vibrant fields of folk (vocalist Aoife O'Donovan) and bluegrass (banjoist Béla Fleck). Abrams himself is also noted as a performer; he has played chamber music with the Sixth Floor Trio and has also performed in klezmer bands. Abrams is the conductor of the Britt Music & Arts Festival Orchestra, which he led in 2016 performances at Crater Lake National Park, and he was featured as a pianist, playing two of his own compositions plus a partially improvised version of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109, in a Tiny Desk Concert on the U.S. National Public Radio network, becoming one of the few classical musicians to have appeared on the YouTube video series. The 2017 Louisville Orchestra release All In also featured two Abrams compositions. Abrams collaborated with Jim James, leader of the Kentucky-based alternative rock band My Morning Jacket, to create a song cycle titled The Order of Nature that pondered the roles of hatred and compassion in the natural world. The piece debuted in April 2018, with James providing vocals and Abrams leading the Louisville Orchestra. October 2019 saw the release of a recording of one of the premiere performances through Decca Gold. ~ James Manheim