Natalie Merchant and the Conservatory Orchestra
Natalie MerchantNatalie Merchant has performed with orchestras around the world and she notes that this experience “has trained her ear as an arranger.” As a resident of the Hudson Valley, Merchant began her musical career as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the pop music band 10,000 Maniacs and released two platinum and four gold records with the group between 1981 and 1993.
She began her solo career with a self-produced debut album, Tigerlily, in 1995. In the years following, she released Ophelia (1998) and Motherland (2001). In 2003, she independently released an album of American and British folk music, The House Carpenter’s Daughter, on her own label, Myth America Records and, in 2010, she released a double concept album of music adapted from 19th and 20th century poetry about childhood, entitled Leave Your Sleep. Last year, Nonesuch Records released Merchant’s sixth solo album – a self-titled and self-produced collection of 10 new and original songs that has been ardently received by both fans and critics alike.
Over the course of her career, Merchant has earned a distinguished place among America's most respected recording artists – an emotional and earnest songwriter, whose subtle performances and distinct voice blend in a powerful, moving form.
James Bagwell maintains an active international schedule as a conductor of choral, operatic, and orchestral music. In 2009 he was appointed music director of The Collegiate Chorale and principal guest conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, leading them in concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Bagwell has trained choruses for major American and international orchestras including the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, NHK Symphony (Japan), St. Petersburg Symphony, Budapest Festival Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. He has worked with such noted conductors as Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Lorin Maazel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Louis Langrée, Leon Botstein, Ivan Fischer, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Raymond Leppard, James Conlon, Jesús López-Cobos, Erich Kunzel, Leon Fleischer, and Robert Shaw. Since 2011, he has collaborated with singer and composer Natalie Merchant, conducting such major orchestras including the San Francisco and Seattle Symphonies. Since 2003, he has been director of choruses for the Bard Music Festival, conducting and preparing choral works during the summer festival at the Fisher Center. He has taught since 2000 at Bard College, where he is director of the Music Program and codirector of the Graduate Conducting Program.