Alastair Willis served as the Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony from 2000-2003. He previously held the position of Assistant Conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras and Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra.
In 1999, Willis was honored as one of six up-and-coming conductors chosen to participate in the American Symphony Orchestra League's National Conductor Preview in Salt Lake City. He was awarded a conducting fellowship to attend the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he studied and collaborated with Seiji Ozawa, Robert Spano, and Sir André Previn, among others. Willis also has studied with David Zinman, David Robertson and Ivan Fischer and has collaborated with other eminent conductors including Michael Tilson Thomas, James Conlon and Jorma Panula.
Willis has appeared with the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Oregon Symphony, San Diego Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and the orchestras of Hartford, Rhode Island, Knoxville and Harrisburg within the past seasons.
In May 2002, Yo-Yo Ma personally asked Willis to be the conductor for several performances of his Silk Road Project residency presented by the Seattle Symphony and has since re-invited him to be a regular conductor for him and this project all over the world. In September 2002, the Los Angeles Philharmonic selected Willis to be one of a small group of talented conductors to work with its Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen for its premiere season of conducting workshops.
Willis made his subscription concert debuts with the North Carolina Symphony, the Toledo Symphony, the Elgin Symphony, the Louisiana Philharmonic, the Colorado Symphony, the Alabama Symphony, the China National Symphony Orchestra Beijing, and the Orchestre de Bretagne (France) in the 2003-04 season, and he was given the honor of conducting the New Year's Day 2004 concert with the Graz Opera orchestra (Austria). He also made return appearances with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Seattle Symphony.
In the summer of 2004 he conducted his San Francisco Symphony and Santa Rosa Symphony debuts, returned to the Houston Symphony and was a featured guest conductor with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.
Willis made debut appearances in the 2004-05 season with the orchestras of Kansas City, Omaha, Edmonton, Honolulu, and The Super World Orchestra Tokyo, and he was personally invited by Music Director Markus Stenz to conduct a new production of Cavalieri's "Rappresentazione di Anima e di Corpo" at the Cologne State Opera in May and June of 2005. He returned to the Oregon Symphony, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra as well.
Season 2005-06 featured him at the podium with the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Orquestra Sinfonica Brasilieras in Rio de Janeiro and the orchestras of New Jersey, Winnipeg, San Antonio, Virginia, Omaha, and Kitchener-Waterloo.
After returning to the San Francisco Symphony in July 2006, Willis led both the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and the Nashville Opera in concert versions of Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” and Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les Sortileges” which were then recorded and released on the Naxos label. Willis also returned to the orchestras of Indianapolis, Omaha, Tulsa and Kitchener-Waterloo in the 2006-07 season. He made his Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Pops in December 2006, and was invited to be the conductor for the Silk Road Project Legend of the Stone Horse with Yo-Yo Ma and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Millennium Park in June 2007.
In the past two seasons Willis has been re-invited by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Detroit Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Nashville Symphony, Elgin Symphony, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston, Barra Mansa and Petrobras Orchestras (Brazil) and made his debuts with Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Mexico City Philharmonic, Eugene Symphony, and Skagit Opera (WA) where he was immediately re-engaged for two more productions. Last season he conducted the “Coffee Concert” series with the Florida Orchestra in Tampa, and was re-invited to conduct the same series in 2009-10.
Born in Acton, Massachusetts, Mr. Willis lived with his family in Moscow for five years before settling in Surrey, England. He received his bachelor's degree with honors from England's Bristol University and continued his studies at Kingston University, where he earned a post-graduate Certificate of Education degree, teaching classroom music from grade-school to high-school levels. In 1994, he was awarded the Salveston Baton Prize for his work with several youth orchestras in and around London. He won a scholarship in 1996 to study with Maestro Larry Rachleff at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, graduating with a Master of Music degree in 1999. In addition to assisting Maestro Rachleff, he spent three years as Principal Conductor of the Campanile Orchestra.