Robin Fountain, Music Director & Conductor
Currently in his thirteenth season as Music Director of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra (SMSO), Maestro Fountain is also Professor of Conducting at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music where he has led the Vanderbilt Orchestra on two acclaimed tours of China. His diverse array of musical interests and specialties from the opera pit to contemporary pops to the masterworks have made him a compelling presence on the podium, and his guest conducting engagements have taken him to Russia (National Philharmonics of Tomsk and Kemorova), France (‘Orchestre d’Aix Conservatoire and L’Orchestre de Chambre de la Gironde), Poland (Opole and Sudecka Philharmonics) and Spain, as well as throughout the US. Upcoming engagements include a season-long residency with the Holy Trinity Philharmonic (the de facto national orchestra of Haiti), and the Singapore Symphony.
At the Southwest Michigan Symphony, Fountain has led a transformation of the orchestra’s performance level, repertoire and scope, with the ensemble now boasting a summer series (the Water’s Edge) a choral partnership (the Southwest Michigan Symphony Chorus) and an El Sistema-inspired teaching program at the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor (Music Makers). His tenure at the SMSO has been characterized by bold, varied and innovative collaboration with other artists and groups. Particularly noteworthy are a “Concerto for Drum Line and Orchestra,” commissioned from composer Larry Schanker and premièred with young drum line artists as soloists; “Valentine’s Day from a Woman’s Point of View,” a concert developed and performed with folk artist Anne Hills, jazz artist Jenna Mammina, rock artist Theressa Ruppert and opera artist Emily Benner; and “Love and War in Music and Letters,” a Veteran’s Day concert developed and performed in collaboration with actor/scriptwriter Doug Fordyce. Recent guest soloists have included Jiji, Rachel Barton Pine, Christopher O’Riley and Cicely Parnas.
His appointment in Michigan followed a fifteen-year tenure with the Williamsport Symphony in Pennsylvania, which concluded with the award of two consecutive NEA grants. He was honored with the Director’s Chair Award from the Williamsport Community Arts Center, recognizing his impact on the region’s artistic life.
The Vanderbilt Orchestra’s tours of China, with performances in the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and in many other cities, and the breadth of Maestro Fountain’s programming, including the première of a bassoon concerto by Joan Tower and the commission and première of a concerto from electric violinist/composer Tracy Silverman (presented in conjunction with Nashville’s renowned OZ Arts), have distinguished his leadership of the Blair School of Music’s orchestra program. He has won both the university-wide Madison Sarratt Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Blair School of Music’s Faculty Excellence Award. The Blair School was recently ranked 6th. among 357 music schools rated by niche.com.
Maestro Fountain balances orchestra concerts with extensive work in the opera pit. Recent productions have included Bernstein’s monumental Mass, Mark Adamo’s Little Women, Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte, and Lucy Simon’s A Secret Garden.
Educated at Oxford University, The Royal College of Music in London with Norman Del Mar and Christopher Adey, and at Carnegie Mellon University, Robin Fountain was an Aspen Conducting Fellow in 1984. In 2012 he was privileged to have the opportunity to train with members of the famed Berlin Philharmonic at The Conductors Lab in Aix-en-Provence.