American conductor Emil de Cou is currently the music director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and appears regularly with orchestras across the country. After his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap in 2000, he joined the orchestra as associate conductor and led the NSO on national tours and at the U.S. Capitol Building. He has remained a regular figure at the Kennedy Center since his first performances here in 1988. Last summer marked his 12th year as the principal conductor for the NSO’s Wolf Trap performances. His innovative concerts there have included the first screenings of The Wizard of Oz with the score performed by live orchestra, the first-ever live-tweeted program notes (Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony), and a live, in real time podcast for a concert called Fantastic Planet. In 2006 he led the NSO in the Wolf Trap premiere of NASA’s images with Holst's The Planets narrated by Leonard Nimoy, and in 2008 he conducted the first performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies. Last summer's concert of the music of John Williams was attended by the largest audience in the history of the NSO at Wolf Trap.
As part of his work as musical consultant for NASA, he has conducted several successful collaborations with the nation’s space agency, including Human Spaceflight: The Kennedy Legacy, at the Kennedy Center in honor of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s declaration to land a man on the moon. Prior to the performance of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Wolf Trap hosted a pre-performance discussion to mark the 45th anniversary of the moon landing. The discussion, which featured Buzz Aldrin, was introduced by Arvind Manocha. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden (Major General Charles Frank Bolden) and de Cou participated in the talk about the arts and space exploration.
Emil de Cou was acting music director for the San Francisco Ballet and was hired by Mikhail Baryshnikov to be conductor of the American Ballet Theatre for eight seasons, conducting performances at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, as well as on national and international tours. His performance of the ballet, Othello, was aired on Great Performances (PBS). The soundtrack by Academy Award-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal was recorded by de Cou for Varèse Sarabande; among his other recordings is Debussy Rediscovered for Arabesque, which includes previously unrecorded works by Debussy.
Emil de Cou has appeared with some of the country's leading orchestras such as those of Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati. Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Saint Louis, and the Boston Pops. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2006 with the New York Pops Orchestra.
De Cou was born in Los Angeles and studied with Daniel Lewis at the University of Southern California and was chosen from 200 candidates to study in Leonard Bernstein’s master class at the Hollywood Bowl. For his ongoing work with NASA, de Cou was awarded the agency’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal by Administrator Charlie Bolden at the NSO at Wolf Trap performance of The Planets in July 2012. He makes his home in San Francisco and Seattle with his husband Leif Bjaland.