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Emil de Cou
Emil de Cou

American conductor Emil de Cou, music director of Pacific Northwest Ballet, made his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap in 2000. He was subsequently appointed associate conductor and later NSO at Wolf Trap Festival Conductor, leading national tours and concerts at the United States Capitol. He has regularly performed at the Kennedy Center since his first performance there in 1990 and this season marks his 23rd year performing with the NSO at Wolf Trap. His innovative performances have included the first live-orchestra screening of The Wizard of Oz, the first live-tweeted program notes (for Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony), and the real-time podcast of Fantastic Planet. In 2006, he led the Wolf Trap premiere of NASA space images with Holst’s The Planets narrated by Leonard Nimoy.

As musical consultant for NASA, de Cou has led several notable collaborations, including Human Spaceflight: The Kennedy Legacy. Prior to a Wolf Trap performance of 2001: A Space Odyssey to mark the 45th anniversary of the moon landing, de Cou participated in a pre-performance discussion with Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin. For his ongoing work with NASA, de Cou was awarded the agency’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal.

Born in Los Angeles, de Cou studied with Daniel Lewis at the University of Southern California and participated in masterclasses with Leonard Bernstein. He has subsequently appeared with many major American orchestras, including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and San Francisco. He was selected by Mikhail Baryshnikov to conduct the American Ballet Theatre orchestra, which he led for eight seasons at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and on international tours. He resides in San Francisco and Seattle with his husband, conductor Leif Bjaland.