Press Release

Matías Tarnopolsky new director of Cal Performances

| 20 May 2009

Matías Tarnopolsky was named the new director of Cal Performances today (Wednesday, May 20) by Robert Birgeneau, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, at a campus press conference in Zellerbach Hall.

Matias Tarnopolsky with tie-dye t-shirtMatías Tarnopolsky at Zellerbach Hall. (Kat Wade photo)

Print-quality image available for download

Tarnopolsky has served as vice president of artistic planning at the New York Philharmonic since 2006, and previously was senior director of artistic planning at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He takes the helm of Cal Performances on Aug. 10.

"We are truly fortunate to have identified such an accomplished and talented artistic leader in Matías Tarnopolsky for the directorship of Cal Performances," said Birgeneau. "This is an individual with a superior musical intellect whose enthusiasm for all of the performing arts truly knows no boundary."

Throughout his career, "Matías has demonstrated a keen ambition to advance the important role that the performing arts play in our world. His distinct artistic vision will enrich the cultural offerings in the greater Bay Area and underscore the significant place that the arts and humanities hold at the University of California, Berkeley," said Birgeneau.

Cal Performances is a destination for internationally celebrated artists and is considered one of the most influential performing arts centers in the world. In December, The Wall Street Journal described Cal Performances as "the most adventurous high-quality performing arts organization in the country." Over its 103-year history, it has presented the world's leading opera singers, orchestras, recitalists and chamber musicians, ballet and modern dance companies, and theater and world stage artists.

"Throughout the search, we remained focused on the mission, vision and values of Cal Performances to guide the process, and we are extremely gratified by the result," said Patricia Theophilos, chair of the board of trustees of Cal Performances. "It was a wonderful discovery to find all the skills, qualities and high standards that we sought in one very promising person."

In accepting his new position, Tarnopolsky said, "I was immediately struck by the vibrancy of the cultural environment at Berkeley and in the quality and variety of the offerings at Cal Performances. This is a rare phenomenon in the world of the performing arts, and it's what makes Cal Performances a special place."

"Cal Performances' audiences embrace the idea of high-quality, diverse, innovative programming, and they have a great appetite for the exploration and enjoyment of the best that the performing arts have to offer," he said. "This is the ideal environment for arts and ideas to flourish. I inherit a remarkable artistic legacy from (outgoing director) Robert Cole; he has set a high bar."

In May 2007, Cole announced his plans to step down to allow adequate time to find a successor. He had held the post since 1986 and is credited with transforming the regional center into one of the most admired performing arts centers in the world.

"I am deeply grateful to Chancellor Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost George Breslauer, and the members of the board of trustees of Cal Performances for granting me this extraordinary opportunity," said Tarnopolsky. "While my work at the New York Philharmonic has been incredibly gratifying and fulfilling, this is a unique opportunity and I look forward with great enthusiasm to working with UC Berkeley faculty and students, and to leading Cal Performances in the next phase in its impressive history," said the new director.

As for his artistic vision for Cal Performances, Tarnopolsky said, "I see the change that I'm going to bring about as evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. I don't see any seismic shifts — I should be careful using that word — coming, because I think we're in an incredible place already."

Tarnopolsky underscored the importance of making the performing arts accessible to undergraduate students, calling it "of fundamental importance to their educational development and their development as adults."

The new director cited his own experience, growing up in London where he spent his youth going to the South Bank Center, the Barbican Center, and the summer series at the Proms, where he recalled seeing Leonard Bernstein conduct the Vienna Philharmonic's performance of Mahler's "Fifth Symphony" from the fifth row.

Cal Performances, he said, needs to be both a museum and laboratory: "A museum where we can come and see the great works of art exquisitely performed and beautifully explained, and in front of a captivated, engaged, and informed audience. And a laboratory where you see great creators come and try their new works, and you can see the best of the new in theater, opera, music, and dance. This is what I think makes art a pulsing, living, fundamental part of our society."

He acknowledged the current economic challenges and said, "I don't entirely buy that you can't be adventurous in times of financial stress. On the contrary, I think it forces you to be more adventurous."

As director, Tarnopolsky is responsible for the overall artistic vision and executive leadership of the performing arts program, encompassing the fields of chamber music, visiting orchestras, opera, early music, new music, vocal and instrumental recitals, classical and modern dance, jazz, world music and dance, theater, and a speakers series. The performing arts season runs from September to June, presenting 60-75 different events in approximately 90-120 performances.

The director is charged with initiating and commissioning new artistic and educational ventures, including those in association with national and international performing arts centers and festivals, and with supporting the educational and research mission of the university through the performing arts program.

Cal Performances is also the administrative home of Student Musical Activities, which provides extra-curricular musical instruction and performance opportunities through the Cal Marching Band, UC Jazz Ensembles and UC Choral Ensembles.

Prior to his work with the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Tarnopolsky was a producer for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers, and his extensive writing about music includes material for liner notes, program notes, and articles for magazines and other publications. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in music and musicology from the University of London, King's College.