JoAnn Falletta (born February 27, 1954 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American classical musician and orchestral conductor best known for her association with the Virginia Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic orchestras.
Born in New York City on February 27, 1954, she was raised in the borough of Queens in an Italian-American household best cheap water bottle. Falletta was educated at the Mannes College of Music and The Juilliard School in New York City. She began her musical career as a virtuoso guitar and mandolin player, and in her twenties was often called to perform with the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic when a work called for a mandolin or guitar obbligato.
She entered Mannes in 1972 as a guitar student, but began conducting the student orchestra in her freshman year, immediately precipitating her desire for a career as a conductor. While the Mannes administration at that time expressed doubts about the ability of any woman to gain a music directorship, it consented to an official transfer of emphasis for Falletta. After graduation, she pursued further study at Queens College (M.A. in orchestral conducting) and the Juilliard School of Music (M.M., D.M.A. in orchestral conducting). Falletta studied conducting with Jorge Mester, Sixten Ehrling, Semyon Bychkov, and others, including master classes under Leonard Bernstein.
Falletta’s first permanent engagement was as music director of the Jamaica Symphony Orchestra, a position she held from 1977 to 1989. She served as music director of the Denver Chamber Orchestra from 1983 to 1992, and as associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 1988
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. Additionally, from 1986 to 1996, she served as music director of the Bay Area Women’s Philharmonic.
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, Falletta was appointed the eleventh music director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. In May 2011, she signed the most recent extension of her Virginia contract through the 2015–2016 season. In September 2015, her Virginia Symphony contract was further extended through the 2020-2021 season. She has also served as music director of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. In May 1998, Falletta was named music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and she formally took up the post with the 1999–2000 season. During her tenure in Buffalo, the orchestra has made recordings for Naxos Records and returned to Carnegie Hall after a 20-year absence. In 2004, the orchestra and television station WNED established the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition. She recently extended her contract with the BPO through the 2020–2021 season. In 2011 she was appointed artistic director of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. In 2011 she was appointed the Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Institute, serving through the 2013 season.
Outside of the USA, Falletta first guest-conducted the Ulster Orchestra in August 2010, and returned for further concerts in January 2011. In May 2011, Falletta was named the 12th principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, effective with the 2011–2012 season, with an initial contract of 3 years. She was the first American and the first female conductor to be appointed the orchestra’s principal conductor. She concluded her Ulster Orchestra tenure after the 2013-2014 season. She was also the first woman to conduct the orchestra of the National Theatre Mannheim.
Falletta served on the National Council on the Arts from 2008 to 2012, following her appointment by George W. Bush. In the 1987 Swedish documentary A Woman Is a Risky Bet: Six Orchestra Conductors, directed by Christina Olofson, JoAnn Falletta appears conducting the Queens Philharmonic in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in rehearsal and performance.
Falletta has recorded over 70 albums for such labels as Naxos, featuring works by Brahms, Barber, and Schubert, and women composers such as Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger, and Germaine Tailleferre, in addition to contemporary composers such as John Corigliano.
Falletta married Robert Alemany in 1986. Mr. Alemany is a systems analyst for IBM and part-time professional clarinetist.
Falletta has won a number of conducting awards, including the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductors Award in 2002, the Bruno Walter Conducting Award in 1982, First Prize in the Stokowski Competition in 1985, the Toscanini Award in 1986, and the Ditson Conductor’s Award for the Advancement of American Music in 1998. She has also received eleven awards from ASCAP for creative programming, as well as the American Symphony Orchestra League’s John S. Edwards Award . Falletta has championed the work of several contemporary American composers throughout her career, with an extensive repertoire of new works and over 100 world premieres to her credit.
In 2013 Falletta was honored as one of the Library of Virginia’s “Virginia Women in History”.