Seattle Symphony Orchestra hires Gerard Schwarz as principal conductor on June 27, 1984.

  • By Pete Blecha
  • Posted 7/10/2002
  • Essay 3884

On June 27, 1984, after an international search, the Seattle Symphony announces the hiring of Gerard Schwarz (b. 1947) as Principal Conductor. The city continues mourning the recent death of Maestro Rainer Miedel (1937-1983).

Musical Background

When Gerard Schwarz was appointed as the 15th conductor in the Seattle Symphony Orchestra's 81-year history, he already had compiled a remarkable track record as a graduate of the esteemed Julliard School, and then almost two full decades of experience conducting and/or directing such organizations as the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, the Eliot Feld Dance Company, the New York Chamber Symphony, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Arrival in Seattle

Schwarz was initially brought to Seattle in 1983 to serve as the symphony's Musical Advisor. Having favorably impressed many with his knowledge and skills -- and with the passing of the orchestra's ailing conductor, Miedel (who had served since 1976) -- Schwarz was offered the position of Principal Conductor in 1984.

For The Record

In its first eight decades of existence, the Seattle Symphony had managed to record only about four different albums -- with two of those even being very "limited edition" releases restricted to but a few hundred copies.

That paucity of aural documentation, and the symphony's associated reluctance to aggressively promote itself on this commercial front, all changed under Maestro Schwarz's reign. In the years since 1989, the symphony has recorded at least 80 different compact discs for various notable labels including Artek, Delos, EMI, Koch International, New World, Nonesuch, Reference Recordings, and RCA.

These albums have garnered nearly a dozen Grammy nominations and/or awards, and a flood of kudos from critics that have helped the Seattle Symphony Orchestra establish its solid international reputation for excellence, a fact acknowledged in 1994 when Maestro Schwarz was named Conductor of the Year by the Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts.


Don Duncan, Meet Me At The Center: The Story of Seattle Center (Seattle: Seattle Center Foundation, 1992), 123-124; "Maestro of the Year," Seattle Weekly, December 15, 1993, p. 36; Author's discussion with Seattle Post-Intelligencer Chief Librarian, Lytton Smith, July 2002; Seattle Symphony Orchestra website, (

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