Louisville Orchestra’s Teddy Abrams wins national ‘Conductor of the Year’ award

Stephanie Wolf /

Louisville Orchestra’s music director has received a prestigious national award.

The orchestra announced Tuesday that Musical America has named Teddy Abrams “Conductor of the Year” for 2022.

For more than 60 years, the global publication has recognized a few artists every year, in different categories, who have made significant contributions to their field.

Speaking to the press, Abrams said these kinds of accolades aren’t achieved alone.

“An award like this, it’s about the organization and about the city as much or more than about me,” he said. “A conductor can’t do any work by his or herself.”

He continued that his role is “absolutely interdependent on extraordinary musicians collaborating and believing in the same things, a staff that shares an artistic vision … a board that wants to support the vision … and, equally importantly, the audience and the community.”

The award doesn’t come with a monetary prize, but it is considered a high honor in the classical music industry. Abrams will now be in company of other notable conductors and artists, including his mentor Michael Tilson-Thomas, who founded the New World Symphony in Miami.

Andrew Fleischman, chair-elect of the Louisville Orchestra Board of Directors, joked that, after eight years in the River City, Abrams still doesn’t have a driver’s license, “but he drives us everywhere we need to go.”

“The flow of his creative ideas has not shown any sign of letting up,” Fleischman said. “The genuine connections he makes in the community have not shown any sign of letting up. The boundless energy that he has is still certainly present.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was also in attendance Tuesday to give his congratulations to Abrams.

He said “the most exciting part” is that Abrams, at 34, is still early in his career.

“I think we’re just seeing the beginning of what Teddy Abrams has to offer our city, our country, the world and most importantly, our people,” Fischer said.

He added Abrams’ “deep understanding about how art can shape community, and how a community can shape art” makes him extraordinary.

“[Those] are really important parts of the puzzle of who Teddy is.”

Abrams joined the Louisville Orchestra in 2014 with two main aspirations.

The first, Abrams said during the Tuesday press conference, was making the orchestra a “beacon to the entire country and industry to say, ‘In Louisville, Kentucky, they are doing extraordinary things, we must watch this city. This is a city where great things are possible.’”

The second goal was to amplify one of his core beliefs: that an orchestra should be more than “a nice thing for a city to have,” something that doesn’t just exist on the “periphery of culture and on the edge of society.” Rather, he said, an orchestra should make a difference in a community.

“Art is about the eternal questioning and growth and re-asking the deepest questions that we all confront as human beings,” Abrams said. “That’s the work that we’re supposed to be doing. It’s never routine, it’s never easy and it’s never comfortable.”

Musical America also awarded 2022 honors to pianist Mitsuko Uchida as “Artist of the Year” and Missy Mazzoli as “Composer of the Year.” ”Vocalist of the Year” went to to bass-baritone Davóne Tines, who joined the Louisville Orchestra last season to perform a composition he wrote as a tribute to Breonna Taylor.

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