American conductor Emil de Cou is currently the music director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and appears regularly with orchestras across the country. After his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra in 2000, he became associate conductor and led the NSO on national tours and at the U.S. Capitol. This summer will mark his 14th year as the principal conductor for the NSO’s Wolf Trap performances. His innovative concerts there have included the world premiere screenings of The Wizard of Oz with the score performed by live orchestra, the first-ever live-tweeted program notes (Beethoven’s 6th Symphony), and a live podcast of his Fantastic Planet concert. In 2006 he led the NSO in the Wolf Trap premiere of Holst’s The Planets narrated by Leonard Nimoy with NASA’s images, and in 2008 he conducted the premiere of Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies.
As musical consultant for NASA, he has conducted several collaborations, including Human Spaceflight: The Kennedy Legacy at the Kennedy Center for the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s declaration to land a man on the moon. De Cou will lead the NSO in three performances of 2001: A Space Odyssey, co-produced by NASA and The Kennedy Center, for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. For his work with NASA, de Cou was awarded the agency’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal; he is the first musician to receive this honor.
For eight seasons, Mikhail Baryshnikov engaged Emil de Cou to conduct American Ballet Theatre in New York and on national and international tours. De Cou’s performance of Academy Award-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal’s ballet Othello was aired on PBS’s Great Performances series, and the soundtrack was released on the Varese Sarabande label. Among de Cou’s other releases is Debussy Rediscovered on Arabesque, which includes first-ever recordings of music by Claude Debussy.
Born in Los Angeles, Emil de Cou studied with Daniel Lewis at USC and was chosen for Leonard Bernstein’s master class at the Hollywood Bowl. De Cou made his Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Pops in 2006. He has led many of America’s leading orchestras, including those of Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and St. Louis. He has also led the Boston Pops, and served as principal conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Pops. Emil de Cou now makes his home in both San Francisco and Seattle with his husband, conductor Leif Bjaland.