Michael Pratt Conductor, Princeton University Orchestra; Director, Program in Music Performance

“Princeton allows room to both students and faculty to grow, explore, including trying things that don’t work. I will always be grateful for that.”

Michael Pratt is in his 45th year serving on the faculty at Princeton University. His principal duties are as Conductor of the Princeton University Orchestra and as Director of the Certificate Program in Music Performance since its inception in 1991. The program he has built at Princeton has come to serve as a model for other American universities as an effective platform from which students can deepen their musical skills and insights in the context of a liberal arts program. The Program provides a full panoply of studio instruction with top professionals in New York, master classes by international artists, and numerous performance classes by Department faculty.

The Princeton University Orchestra has grown since 1977 from around 50 members to an ensemble of 110+ strong, one that plays the most challenging standard repertory: the Orchestra regularly takes on Mahler, Strauss, Stravinsky, plus numerous world premieres by graduate students and faculty in the Department of Music. Additionally, he has taken the Princeton orchestra on thirteen international tours since 1990, including two visits to the Royal College of Music, London. Other destinations have included Munich, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Lisbon, Frankfurt, The Hague, Amsterdam, Madrid and Barcelona.

Strongly committed to opera performance for students since his first year, under his leadership the Princeton University Opera Theater has produced all three Mozart/DaPonte operas, plus The Magic FluteDer FreischützFidelioGianni Schicchi, and L’Enfant et les Sortileges. In recent years he has focused on the early Baroque, with performances of Monteverdi and Cavalli: La CalistoEgistoThe Return of Ulysses and Poppea. In concert he has conducted a partial performance of Tristan und Isolde and Act 1 of Die Walküre.

Pratt provided the original inspiration for and continues to direct Princeton’s partnership with the Royal College OF Music, London. For eight years, gifted Princeton performers and composers have spent a semester in London as full time students at the College, which has enabled them to have an immersion experience in music. The partnership holds out the prospect to students of an early invitation to graduate study, with the possibility of receiving a Master’s degree in 12 months.

Pratt was educated at the Eastman School of Music and lists among his mentors Gunther Schuller, Otto Werner Mueller and Gustav Meier. He co-founded the Opera Festival of New Jersey, serving as Director for eleven years. His has conducted several highly regarded US ensembles, including the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and the orchestras of Detroit, Atlanta, Indianapolis, New Jersey, Buffalo and Rochester. He has also twice been a guest conductor with the Odessa (Ukraine) Philharmonic.

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