John Devlin’s passion for presenting music both old and new in unexpected ways delights critics who call the performances “powerhouses of unstoppable momentum … that bring sold-out houses to their feet, cheering.” (The Washington Post)
Conductor John Devlin is an energetic force in the classical music world. He is an innovator of concert design, an ardent champion of American music, and a proponent of cross-genre collaborations. The newly appointed Music Director of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, Devlin is only the ninth conductor in its 90-year history to hold that title and, at 33, is one of the nation’s youngest music directors to lead a professional symphony orchestra.
Devlin’s artistry and versatility make him a sought-after guest conductor with major orchestras across the nation. His recent engagements include performances with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony, the Omaha Symphony, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, and the American Repertory Ballet. Of his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra and violin soloist Joshua Bell, Anne Midgette of The Washington Post wrote that Devlin “led the evening with flair… and was visibly in his element.”
Devlin spent three seasons from 2015-2018 apprenticing with some of the world’s best conductors, soloists, and orchestras while based in Washington, D.C. During that time, he was the Cover Conductor for the National Symphony Orchestra, where he served as assistant to world-renowned Music Directors Christoph Eschenbach and Gianandrea Noseda, accompanying the orchestra on its historic 2018 tour of Russia. He served concurrently as the Assistant Conductor of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra in New Jersey, working alongside Music Director Rossen Milanov.
A leader in designing concerts that frame orchestral music in inventive ways, Devlin has generated such forward-looking concepts as Gourmet Symphony, Go-Go Symphony, Seamless Symphony, Interactive Symphony, and the New Retro Project. These collaborations have paired artists such as Joshua Bell with gourmet chefs, and legendary musicians like Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, and Larry Graham with symphony orchestras for the first time. Each reflects Devlin’s mission of making the symphonic art form attainable and engaging for all audiences. The Washington Post hailed these projects as “refreshingly unfamiliar” events that deliver “a new audience for classical music” and have brought “the sold-out house to its feet, cheering.”
Devlin is also a strong advocate for contemporary music, having premiered over 30 new works that range from traditional orchestral pieces to mashups with rock bands, street dancers, and rap artists. His artistic partnerships with some of today’s best emerging composers include a decade-long relationship with Eric Nathan, from whom he has commissioned works that he performed at Carnegie Hall and with the National Symphony Orchestra. Devlin has also premiered works by American composers Michael-Thomas Foumai, Evan Meier, Alexandra Bryant, Tomek Regulski, Daniel Houglum, Timothy Brady, Matthew Levine, Christopher Caliendo, Liza Kravinsky, and David Matthews. In addition, Devlin commissioned and conducted the world premiere of La Saulaie, a semi-finished work of Claude Debussy that was subsequently completed by British composer and musicologist Robert Orledge.
Comfortable in many types of musical environments, Devlin has also worked extensively outside of the standard symphonic model. He has led a world premiere with the American Repertory Ballet; conducted two operas with the Maryland Opera Studio; performed many operas in-concert, including Don Giovanni at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage; and directed a movie soundtrack recording at Capitol Records. The ensemble for this recording comprised musicians from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, collaborating to produce the soundtrack to Life is Love, a 2016 film by acclaimed director Halfdan Hussey with a score by Christopher Caliendo.
A passionate educator, Devlin remains an active conductor of outstanding high school and collegiate ensembles. He has been selected to conduct numerous honor ensembles, including the Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Maine All-State Orchestras and many regional select ensembles. He also served on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Music as the Assistant Director of Orchestral Studies from 2017-2018. Most recently, Devlin held the positions of Music Director of the Hawaii Youth Symphony and Artistic Director of the Pacific Music Institute. Previously, he held three-year terms as Music Director of the McLean Youth Orchestra and the Youth Orchestras of Prince William, Virginia.
Committed to serving the wider arts community beyond the podium, Devlin has been a member of the Conductors Guild’s Board of Directors and was a featured speaker at the organization’s 2014 annual conference, discussing the future of orchestras with the Executive Directors of the National and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras. He also delivered the keynote TED talk on “Innovation in Crowded Marketplaces” at a TEDx symposium in 2017. The talk, available for free on YouTube, details the thinking that resulted in the creation of Gourmet Symphony.
Devlin completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in orchestral conducting under the tutelage of master teacher James Ross at the University of Maryland. His undergraduate degree is from Emory University, where he graduated summa cum laude with a double major in Music and Latin. His professional career has been shaped by his time as an assistant to conductors Gianandrea Noseda, Christoph Eschenbach, Rossen Milanov, and Victoria Gau. He has also worked in festivals and workshops with mentors Marin Alsop, Dianne Wittry, Michael Jinbo, Markand Thakar, Harold Farberman, Michael Votta, and Gustav Meier.
“Devlin… led the evening with flair” The Washington Post (Anne Midgette)
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