Allen Tinkham

Music Director

Allen Tinkham is increasingly recognized as one of the most inspiring and exciting conductors and teachers of his generation. He is hailed by the Chicago Tribune as both a conductor and teacher, described as working “wonders” conducting with “uncanny control” and as one of Chicago’s most important “educators, mentors and inspirational guides in the training of tomorrow’s orchestral professionals.”

As the Music Director of CYSO, Tinkham oversees artistic programming and faculty and leads the Symphony Orchestra as well as CORE, CYSO’s select chamber orchestra. Tinkham led the Symphony Orchestra in its Carnegie Hall debut, first live broadcast, first recording release, and seven international tours on four continents. CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra, internationally acclaimed as “one of the country’s most famous youth outfits” (Muso Magazine), is regularly broadcast by WFMT and has received numerous Illinois Council of Orchestras Youth Orchestra of the Year and Programming of the Year awards.

As an advocate and champion of contemporary music, Tinkham has won nine American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) National Awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. Tinkham is also the Music Director of the Chicago Composers Orchestra, Chicago’s only professional orchestra performing exclusively the works of living composers.

In high demand as a guest conductor and educator, Tinkham has conducted summer festivals and NAfME All-State Orchestras throughout the U.S. including the All-Eastern and All-Northwest Orchestras. He was the Assistant Conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concerts for six seasons, and he has guest conducted the Colorado Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, and the Members of Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Tinkham attended the Eastman School of Music, University of Michigan School of Music, and American Academy of Conducting of the Aspen Music Festival. He was invited to the 14th International Nicolai Malko Competition and the 4th International Conductors Competition Sir Georg Solti and is a laureate of the League of American Orchestras Bruno Walter Conductor Preview.

Tinkham began his career as Apprentice Conductor at the Oregon Symphony and before the end of his apprenticeship was appointed Music Director of CYSO—the youngest to win the post in its history.

Who is your favorite composer and why?

I don’t really have favorite composers or pieces anymore, at least not the way I did when I was young. As a professional musician you have to play everything like it’s your favorite, so you learn to delve whole-heartedly into whatever you are working on at the time. After a while it changes your relationship to music in general — you appreciate everything more. That said, it was the tone poems of Strauss, the symphonies of Mahler, and especially the ballets of Stravinsky that made me want to be a musician. During the pandemic the symphonies of Brahms often invaded my dreams.

What is your favorite musical memory from when you were young?

My favorite musical memory from when I was young is sitting under the piano while my mom practiced. I loved feeling the music was all around me.

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