27-year-old Yuga Cohler, Music Director and Conductor of the Young Musicians Foundation (YMF) Debut Orchestra, is the latest recipient of the BMI Foundation’s Lionel Newman Conducting Scholarship. Established in 1991 in honor of Oscar-winning composer, pianist, and conductor Lionel Newman, the program pairs the world’s most talented young conductors with one of the premier training orchestras in the nation, for the opportunity to plan, rehearse, and conduct a full orchestra season. Cohler first received the $10,000 award last year upon appointment as the Orchestra’s 30th director, joining a prestigious list of alumni conductors that includes André Previn, Michael Tilson Thomas, Lawrence Foster, and Daniel Hege. The scholarship will be renewed annually for the duration of his post (2015-2018).
Earlier this year in April, Cohler catapulted to the vanguard of contemporary young conductors with the premiere of YEETHOVEN, the Debut Orchestra’s 2015/16 season finale and inaugural installment of The Great Music Series. The series was created by Cohler to explore the relationship between classical masterpieces and the popular music of today, highlighting the essential elements of all “great music.” The unprecedented extravaganza featured six works from Kanye West’s Yeezus album, arranged for orchestra by award-winning composer Stephen Feigenbaum and integrated with six works by Ludwig van Beethoven. Cohler and Feigenbaum’s 70-piece orchestra premiere drew an audience of thousands and attention from over 60 national news outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, USA Today, The Guardian (UK), and Pitchfork.
“As a young artist willing to defy expectations and embrace innovation, Yuga shines light on the ability of new music to unite diverse audiences,” said BMI Foundation President Deirdre Chadwick. “We are delighted to support his emergence as a singular conductor of his generation and look forward to his second season with YMF.”
The Debut Orchestra has announced that its 2016/17 season will continue YMF’s 62-year tradition of intrepid programming that spans traditional and modern repertoire, with performances of works by Paul Dukas, Thomas Adès, Hector Berlioz, Darius Milhaud, Alberto Ginastera, Arnold Schoenberg, and Leonard Bernstein, among others. The season also sees the second installment of the Great Music Series, which will juxtapose minimalist works from the classical canon with Electronic Dance Music (EDM). "My intention for this season," stated Cohler, "is to explore the function of music in society. I believe strongly that music can serve as a platform for eliciting deeper thought and empathy from the people who listen to it. By presenting works that are seemingly disparate in terms of their origins, inspirations, and categorizations, I hope to provide a context for audiences to find the commonalities between these works."
Yuga Cohler is the youngest conducting graduate of The Juilliard School, where he studied with New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert and served as the Juilliard Orchestra’s assistant conductor under Itzhak Perlman. He maintains a close relationship with the group, having made his professional debut with them in 2014. He has since conducted in varying capacities numerous renowned orchestras, including the Tokyo Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and New Jersey Symphony, as well as the Dallas, Baltimore, Fort Worth, and New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestras, and the New World and Danish National Symphonies. A deft interpreter of modern music, Cohler was chosen by composer John Adams to lead a program of modern American orchestral music at Carnegie Hall, where the New York Times lauded his “strong rendition” of Elliott Carter’s Double Concerto. He also serves as a Director of the Asia / America New Music Initiative, with whom he was a featured performer at the 2015 Beijing Modern Music Festival. His numerous accolades include the Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship, the Charles Schiff Conducting Award, and the David McCord Prize for Artistic Excellence, as well as fellowships with prestigious music institutions across the country such as the Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music and the Tanglewood Music Center. As an advocate for the integration of classical music into mainstream culture, Cohler runs State of Art, a blog about American music without preconceived notions of genre or quality.
About Young Musicians Foundation
The Young Musicians Foundation was founded in 1955 by pianist Sylvia Kunin to provide high level training for young, pre-professional musicians to help them prepare for the demands of elite professional orchestras and international organizations. To facilitate greater access to quality musical education at the community level, YMF created the Teaching Artists Program (TAP). TAP currently serves over 1,400 students through on-site programming at over 14 elementary and middle schools in the Los Angeles area. At whatever entry point that musicians ages 4 - 25 come to YMF, they receive mentoring and guidance to build their interest and confidence in studying and performing classical music at all levels.