Artistic Director / Conductor
David Commanday's career has brought him renown on three continents, and spans the fields of concert hall, stage, university, and youth orchestra. He is known for a vital connection with musicians and audience; his performances are praised for compelling immediacy, with depth in the classics and sparkle in pops.
"Clearly, Commanday isn't satisfied with a business-as-usual concert; he's trying to open up the ears of his listeners, to stir them, lead them. His feeling for and excitement about the music he conducts is palpable and contagious." (Peoria Journal Star)
He is the founding Artistic Director/Conductor of the Heartland Festival Orchestra, an innovative ensemble founded in 2009. The HFO and Commanday were recognized as Professional Orchestra and Conductor of the Year 2011 by the Illinois Council of Orchestras. The HFO is in Season 10, celebrating nine seasons of artistic growth, widespread acclaim, and balanced budgets.
Maestro Commanday's additional posts include Music Director of Youth Music Illinois (formerly known as Central Illinois Youth Symphony), and Visiting Director of Orchestral Activities and Applied Cello at Eastern Illinois University.
From 1999 to 2009 he was Music Director of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. This was a decade in which the PSO rose to be recognized as an orchestra of regional distinction, performing with world-class artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Hilary Hahn, Bobby McFerrin, Joshua Bell, Sharon Isbin, Emanuel Ax, and Itzhak Perlman.
David Commanday commenced his professional career as Music Director of the Boston Ballet over three seasons, touring Europe, North America, and Mexico with Boston and Rudolf Nureyev. Subsequent positions include Assistant Conductor of the San Diego Symphony and Associate Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
His guest engagements with professional orchestra have spanned the globe. Abroad, Maestro Commanday has appeared with such orchestras as the Singapore National Youth Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Belgian Radio Orchestra, and Pro Arte Orchestra of Vienna. At home he has guest-conducted across the United States, appearances including the National Symphony, American Symphony, Flagstaff Symphony, North Carolina Philharmonic, Eastern Connecticut Symphony, Flagstaff Symphony, Las Vegas Philharmonic, Louisville Orchestra, and the Seattle, Atlanta, and California Symphonies. He has extensive experience with the ballet, conducting for Joffrey Ballet (New York and Chicago), Ballet West, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Washington Ballet, Peoria Ballet, and Kansas City Ballet.
Commanday's Youth Orchestra positions commenced when he was named Music Director of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. He brought the BYSO to national recognition, earning three ASCAP awards for programming and leading four international tours. Commanday and the BYSO commissioned and performed the world premiere of the Double Concerto by Ivan Tcherepnin, with soloists Lynn Chang and Yo-Yo Ma. The performance earned the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for the composition and its composer.
Commanday's youth orchestra positions have included Director of the Longy School of Music Orchestra, Conductor of the Greater Newark Youth Orchestra, Conductor and Music Advisor of the Central Illinois Youth Symphony, and Music Director of the New Jersey Youth Symphony. The maestro guided NJYS in a process of growth over three seasons that culminated in a highly successful, transformative merger with the Wharton Music Center.
The Singapore Ministry of Education engaged Commanday as consultant on youth orchestra management. This led to four return trips to this nation, in which he worked with students in chamber music and cello master classes, and adjudicated in the annual Singapore National Youth Festival. In the latest visit Commanday guest-conducted the SNYO in its premiere Esplanade concert series, to widespread acclaim.
David Commanday performs and teaches as cellist. He collaborates in chamber music performances with guest artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Stefan Milenkovich, Adam Neiman, Antonio Pompa-Baldi, Max Mandel, and Matt Haimovitz, as well as members of the Heartland Festival Orchestra.
He has held faculty positions at Harvard University, Boston University, MIT, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Montclair State University. As Artist in Residence and Adjunct Faculty at Eureka College he founded and directed the Summer Strings Festival for string players of all ages, from 2012 through 2017.
Commanday graduated Harvard University cum laude, with studies in psychology, music and languages. He played principal celloat Tanglewood under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, and Aaron Copland, and their influence led him toward conducting. He trained at the University of Vienna guided by Otmar Suitner, General Musikdirektor of the Berlin Staatsoper, and was awarded the Austrian Staatsdiplom in orchestral conducting with highest distinction. His language skills include fluency in English, German, and French, and he is conversant with Italian, Swedish, and Russian. David is married to Karla Commanday-Mirosav. Their family, at home in Central Illinois, includes three children: Beau, Lark, and Star, and champion Scottish Terriers.