biography

James SetapenJames Setapen, Director of the Academy and Conductor-in-Residence at the Music Institute of Chicago, has a broad background and interests, which include positions as music director, associate conductor, guest conductor, university professor, opera coach and conductor, mentor to young musicians, conducting teacher, and public speaker.

From 1988 to 2007 he was Music Director and Conductor of the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra. His very successful tenure included raising and sustaining the quality of performance, developing community interest and knowledge in the orchestra, and establishing innovative and accessible programs. During his tenure the Symphony premiered several works, expanded its outreach into the community, initiated an outdoor Labor Day concert with fireworks, and was the subject of two television documentaries which were each broadcast in over one hundred markets throughout the country.

Setapen has guest conducted many orchestras and opera companies throughout the country, including those of Denver, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Orlando, and Honolulu. He has also conducted in several cities in Italy, Germany and Austria. Recent guest engagements have included the Park Ridge Fine Arts Symphony, the Northbrook and Racine orchestras, and the University of Chicago orchestra. Setapen was Music Director of Summer Music Monterey, a program for middle school and high school music students, for seven summers. He has also worked with the youth orchestras of Oakland, Denver, and Amarillo. He was recently guest conductor for the Vermont All-State Orchestra, the Milwaukee High School Honors Orchestra, and the Northeast Kansas Honors Orchestra.

He and his daughter Ilana were guest conductor and violin soloist with the Musical Offering of Venice Chamber Orchestra and were also featured as soloist and conductor with the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colorado.

James SetapenFormer Associate Conductor of the Denver Symphony and the Omaha Symphony, Setapen won first prize in the Oakland Symphony’s American Conductor’s Competition, and as the San Francisco Examiner reported, was ...the consensus choice of the six judges, the orchestra and the audience...[he displayed] undeniable power and vitality - conductorial authority - that won him the prize.

James Setapen received his Bachelor of Music with Distinction and a Performer’s Certificate in Clarinet from the Eastman School of Music, and a Master of Music in Opera Direction from the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has also studied conducting with Boris Goldovsky and Max Rudolf, with Carl Melles at the Salzburg Mozarteum, with Franco Ferrara in Siena, Italy, and in Krakow, Poland with Christoph Eschenbach. Setapen has been on the faculty of the Conductor’s Institute at Bard College in New York.