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Michael Butterman

Michael Butterman
Michael Butterman

Principal Conductor for Education and Outreach
The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair

Making his mark as a model for today’s conductors, Michael Butterman is recognized for his commitment to creative artistry, innovative programming, and audience and community engagement. He is in his eighth season as Music Director for both the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra and the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, and is in his 14th season as Principal Conductor for Education and Outreach for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the first position of its kind in the United States. He is also the Resident Conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, a post he has held since 2009.

As a guest conductor, Butterman made his debut with the Cleveland Orchestra in the spring of 2012, and was immediately reengaged for two concerts the following season. Other recent engagements include appearances with the Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Hartford Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Syracuse Symphony, New Mexico Symphony, California Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Spokane Symphony, El Paso Symphony, Santa Fe Symphony, Mobile Symphony, Peoria Symphony, Winston-Salem Symphony, Pensacola Opera and Asheville Lyric Opera. Summer appearances include Tanglewood, the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in Colorado and the Wintergreen Music Festival in Virginia. In the 2013–14 season, he will make his debut with the Charleston Symphony. 

Butterman gained international attention as a diploma laureate in the Prokofiev International Conducting Competition and as a finalist in the prestigious Besançon International Conducting Competition. As the 1999 recipient of the Seiji Ozawa Fellowship, he studied at Tanglewood with Robert Spano, Jorma Panula, and Maestro Ozawa, and shared the podium with Ozawa to lead the season’s opening concert. In 1997, Mr. Butterman was sponsored by UNESCO to lead the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Moldova in a concert of music by great American masters.

From 2000 to 2007, Mr. Butterman held the post of Associate Conductor for the Jacksonville Symphony in Florida. For six seasons, he also served as Music Director of Opera Southwest in Albuquerque, NM. Prior to joining the Jacksonville Symphony, Butterman was Director of Orchestral Studies at the LSU School of Music for five years, and was Principal Conductor of the LSU Opera Theater. Previously, he held the post of Associate Conductor of the Columbus Pro Musica Orchestra, and served as Music Director of the Chamber Opera, Studio Opera, and Opera Workshop at the Indiana University School of Music. For two seasons, he was also the Associate Music Director of the Ohio Light Opera, conducting over 35 performances each summer.

At Indiana University, Butterman conducted a highly acclaimed production of Leonard Bernstein’s little-known 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a series of performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, receiving unanimous praise from such publications as The New York Times, Washington Post, Variety, and USA Today. He was subsequently invited to New York at the request of the Bernstein estate to prepare a performance of a revised version of the work.

Michael Butterman’s work has been featured in five nationwide broadcasts on public radio's Performance Today, and can be heard on two CDs recorded for the Newport Classics label and on a new disc in which he conducts the Rochester Philharmonic and collaborates with actor John Lithgow.




With the RPO since: 2000

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Non-RPO activities and hobbies: Music Director of two other orchestras (Boulder Philharmonic and Shreveport Symphony) and Resident Conductor of another (Jacksonville Symphony).  I enjoy golfing, cooking, and trying to find time to keep up my piano skills.

What music school did you attend, and who were your most inspirational teachers?  Indiana University School of Music. Influential teachers included Robert Porco, Robert Spano, and Jorma Panula. But I must say that the entire environment at IU was as influential and inspiring as any one person might have been. The quality and enormous quantity of musical experiences (including a frequency and artistic level of opera productions that rival the major professional houses) at a place like that provided the student conductors with abundant opportunities to explore and grow. I'm very grateful for my time there. 

Favorite books/movies: I'm kind of a non-fiction fan, so I loved Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" of several years ago. I like big-picture thinking and appreciate the author's use of geography, linguistics, archeology, and modern science to do nothing less than explain all of human history. 

And if you had to pick just one, what’s your favorite piece? St. Matthew Passion of J.S. Bach. This is in no way easy listening, but I find it the most profound and moving work, on every level, in all of Western music. 

People would be surprised to know … As an undergrad, I engaged in research projects at the National Institutes of Health, authored two papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and then went to law school (briefly!)

What are your favorite restaurants in Rochester, and why?  Of course I enjoy the usual suspects: 2 Vine, Max's, Dinosaur BBQ and so on. Golden Port across from the RPO is also tasty and convenient. But I'm also just as happy grazing the prepared foods at the Pittsford Wegmans...

The RPO is essential to the Rochester community because… Rochester is a community of uncommon cultural vitality, and the RPO has been central to that artistic richness since its inception. It is a partner with area music educators and a catalyst for collaboration among the cultural organizations in the area. The RPO believes that great music is for everyone and has worked to open up this world to countless young people over its many decades. There is no question that a very large percentage of the Rochester population has been directly impacted by the RPO' s education and outreach efforts. Rochester may be the imaging capital of the world, but it's also a great music city, and the RPO is at the very heart of that distinction.

What sports team(s) do you root for? Growing up in the Washington area and being a baseball fan, I have a soft spot for the Baltimore Orioles. Though they've been a little tough to root for lately, I still remember the glory days of the 70s and early 80s. In fact, my first awareness of Rochester was as the location of the Orioles' AAA farm club, the Red Wings. 

What is your favorite way to spend your day off?  I'm sorry, I don't think I understand the question :)

What is your most memorable musical experience? Very hard to single out one, but I do remember a deeply affecting experience I had as a listener. I attended a performance with my mother of the Brahms Requiem with the National Symphony. I must have been 13 or 14 and it was the first time I had heard the work live. Early in the second movement, the orchestra inexorably builds to a climactic forte entrance for the chorus as they sing "Denn alles Fleisch..." I can still remember having the sensation of being pulled forward in my seat and then feeling like every hair on my body was standing on end. It was both terrifying and thrilling at the same time.

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