Kent Nagano: The maestro

Porter ’74, music, sociology


Kent Nagano is an internationally acclaimed opera and symphony conductor who is renowned for interpretations of clarity, elegance, and intelligence. He has served as music director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal since 2006. In 2013, he became artistic advisor and principal guest conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, and in 2015, he took up the position of general music director of the Hamburg State Opera and chief conductor of the Philharmonic State Orchestra.

Nagano's early professional years were spent in Boston, working with Seiji Ozawa at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1984, Olivier Messiaen selected Nagano to assist in premiering his opera, Saint François d'Assise. He became the first music director of the Los Angeles Opera in 2003. A much sought-after guest conductor, he has worked with most of the world's finest orchestras, including the Vienna, Berlin, and New York Philharmonic Orchestras. He has recorded widely, receiving multiple Grammy Awards as well as multiple prizes from Grammophone, Grand Prix du Disque, Edison, ECHO, and Musical America (Conductor of the Year).

"When I began my relationship with UC Santa Cruz in 1969," recalls Nagano, "the university was just starting out. Its unique structure placed exceptional scholars in close working relationships with students, which meant that one could find so many inspirational mentors. The faculty were the most qualified and brilliant you could find anywhere."