Kenneth Woods Appointed Principal Conductor of English Symphony Orchestra



Kenneth Woods

Photo-Benjamin Ealovega


Kenneth Woods, who was appointed Artistic Director of the English Symphony Orchestra‘s new Malvern-based subscription series in December 2012, has been promoted by the Worcestershire-based orchestra to the post of Principal Conductor. The American-born, Cardiff-based Woods becomes the orchestra’s first principal conductor since the passing of Vernon Handley in 2008.

“We started exploring possibilities with Ken towards the end of last year, asking him to curate the Malvern concert series during 2013, at the end of which we planned to take stock,” comments the ESO’s CEO Peter Sheeran. ”In the event, his involvement with the different elements that make up the ESO has been a shot in the arm for us and we see every reason to bring forward his appointment. We are announcing our new season next month and want to have Ken at the forefront of it.”

Woods comes to the ESO following a highly successful tenure as Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra of the Swan, with whom he has made an acclaimed series of recordings of the symphonies of Hans Gál and Robert Schumann, earning the orchestra its first “Gramophone Editor’s Choice.” Numerous other plaudits have brought OOTS to the attention of a new global audience, with coverage from The New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio in the United States and BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 in the UK, among others.

Ken’s passion for taking music to all kinds of listeners and venues is very much in line with the ESO’s motto of “Music for Everyone.” He embraces the future of both the ESO’s concert and community projects with equal enthusiasm. “My colleagues in the ESO do the work they do in schools, care homes, hospices and on youth orchestra courses because they believe in it. The musicians have stayed loyal to the orchestra through the years because, as many of them have told me, it’s the orchestra they want to play in” said Woods. “What could be more exciting for a conductor than to work with colleagues who want to be there, who believe in everything the orchestra is doing?”

Ken’s admirable work in bringing classical music to rural and under-served communities began in his native America through the National Endowment for the Arts Rural Residency Program, where as cellist of the Taliesin Trio he set up a dynamic chamber music program in Mississippi County, Arkansas, part of the poorest congressional district in the United States. He previously served as Music Director of the Oregon East Symphony in the small  rodeo town of Pendleton, Oregon, an orchestra once described as “the most remotely situated full symphony orchestra on the planet.” With the OES Ken not only developed the orchestra’s concert activities through a highly-praised “Redneck” Mahler cycle, numerous premieres, commissions, regional tours and composer residencies, but also co-founded a multifaceted educational program called “Playing for Keeps,” comprising two training orchestras, a children’s chorus, a summer music camp, regular youth concerts and support for private instrumental lessons and instrument rental.

Ken’s resume includes guest conducting with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, State of Mexico Symphony and National Symphony Orchestra (Washington D.C.), and appearances at the Aspen, Scotia and Round Top music festivals. He has recorded with Northern Sinfonia and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and in August makes his first recording with the English Chamber Orchestra. An eloquent communicator, Ken has been heard frequently on the BBC, most recently taking part in the BBC Proms Literary Festival discussing A Mahler Anthology, a selection of readings about the composer, including letters, reviews and biographies. His widely read and respected blog A View from the Podium, is one of the 25 most read classical music blogs.

Details of the English Symphony Orchestra’s 2013-14 season will be announced in early September, and will include a number of exciting initiatives, including debut performances in new venues and the appointment of a composer-in-association. The English Symphony Orchestra’s autumn season opens on September 27th at Christ Church in Malvern, with Woods conducting a programme featuring the music of Mendelssohn and the Concerto for Cello and Strings by Hans Gál.

* * * * *

All media enquiries, interview and image requests: Melanne Mueller,,  +44 (0) 20 8698 6933 or +1 917 907 2785

To learn more about Kenneth Woods visit

To learn more about the English Symphony Orchestra visit


September 27, 2013

Mendelssohn “Hebrides” Overture 

Gal Concertino for Cello and Strings

Matthew Sharp cello

Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3, “Scottish”  

November  22, 2013

Tchaikovsky Andante Cantabile  (arr. from String Quartet No. 1)

Shostakovich Chamber Symphony, Op. 83a (arr. from String Quartet No. 4)

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

Tamsin Waley-Cohen violin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Spread the word. Share this post!

About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

All material in these pages is protected by copyright.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *