Music Director Emeritus and Principal Pops Conductor, Bob Bernhardt, formerly served as Music Director and Conductor of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera for 19 seasons. He was the second Music Director in the combined company’s history, and is its first with the title Emeritus. Along with the extraordinary rejuvenation of our city, Bernhardt likewise led the CSO into its most exciting, hopeful and inviting period with his unique blend of dedication, commitment to excellence, and sense of humor. A lover of all genres of music, he is equally at home in symphonic, operatic, pops and educational performances.
Concurrently, Bob is in his 21st year as Principal Pops Conductor of the Louisville Orchestra, in his 36th consecutive season with the company, and is in his 3rd season as Principal Pops Conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony in Michigan. He is also an Artist-in-Residence at Lee University and conductor of the Lee Symphony.
Bernhardt recently made his conducting debuts with the Baltimore Symphony, Cincinnati Pops, Dallas Symphony, Houston Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Grand Rapids Symphony, Florida Orchestra, Santa Barbara Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic, all of which resulted in return engagements. This season marks the 25th anniversary of his debut with the Boston Pops (where he made his debut in 1992 at John Williams’ invitation), and is returning to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra for the 12th consecutive year as conductor of their Symphony Under the Sky Festival and as a guest on several of their subscription series.
This season he will appear as a guest conductor with the orchestras in Detroit, Florida (Tampa), Columbus, New Jersey, Portland (ME), and Louisiana.
Formerly, he was the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Rochester (NY) Philharmonic (1995-98), Artistic Director of the Sewanee Music Festival in 1999, Music Director and Conductor of the Tucson (AZ) Symphony Orchestra (1987-95), Principal Guest Conductor of Kentucky Opera (1991-96), Artistic Director of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta (1993-97) and Music Director of the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra (1985-1987).
He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1978, and has recorded for Vanguard, First Edition, Carlton Classics and RPO record labels. A lover of opera, he has conducted staged productions of Don Giovanni, La Traviata, Rigoletto, La Bohème, Il Trovatore, The Flying Dutchman, The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Carmen, Tosca, The Barber of Seville, Susannah, Don Pasquale, Lucia di Lammermoor, Die Fledermaus, Madama Butterfly, Cavalleria Rusticana, Faust, Fidelio, Turandot, Pagliacci, Cosi Fan Tutte, Hansel and Gretel, Elixir of Love, Albert Herring, The Turn of the Screw, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Orfeo ed Euridice, numerous Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and the musical My Fair Lady. In addition to his work with the CSO, he has conducted the Opera Companies of Nashville and Birmingham. He has also conducted the Louisville Ballet, the North Carolina Ballet, the Jacksonville Ballet and the Lonestar Ballet.
Born in Rochester, NY, Robert Bernhardt holds a Master’s Degree with Honors from the University of Southern California School of Music where he studied with Daniel Lewis. He was a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of Union (NY) College, where he was an Academic All-American Baseball Player, and captain of the school’s soccer team. His children, Alex and Charlotte, live in Seattle. He and his wife, Nora, live on Signal Mountain.