Music Director Emeritus, Robert 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.
Bob will also celebrate another milestone in his career with the Louisville Orchestra, with 2012-2013 representing his 30th season with the LO, and his 15th as its Principal Pops Conductor.
Bernhardt recently made his conducting debuts with the Baltimore Symphony, Cincinnati Pops, Dallas Symphony, and Houston Symphony, and returned for six concerts with the Boston Pops (where he made his debut in 1992 at John Williams’ invitation) and appeared on the podiums of the Detroit Symphony, Tucson Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony and the Edmonton Symphony. With the latter, he is returning for the seventh consecutive season as conductor of their Symphony Under the Sky Festival, and as a guest on other subscription series.
High praise for his work, which has been consistent throughout his tenure, has included:
“Throughout the course of the four inspiring movements, Maestro Robert Bernhardt masterfully shaped and sculpted an outstanding performance featuring a lush cello section and fine horn playing. The ensemble was consistently tight on what could easily become a fragmented piece of music.” – Mel R. Wilhoit, Chattanooga Times Free Press
"Chattanoogans are extremely lucky to have Robert Bernhardt at the helm of their orchestra. The Maestro's high-energy conducting style and easy stage presence create an instant rapport that leaves his audience eager to actively participate in a program." -THE PULSE
"Paying keen attention to detail, including an ever-changing orchestral balance, Bernhardt cut a commanding presence, almost like a poised athletic dancer, guiding his forces through Mahler's wondrous textures and biting tonalities with a broad spectrum of emotions..."
“Bob Bernhardt who leads the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera has made so many gifts for this area with his musical abilities. I have heard from the younger generation that they like going to see a program because he has a wonderful gift of making it interesting.” -Laura Crane, chattanoogan.com
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). His vast symphonic repertoire covers most of the standard canon and his commitment to the music of our time is significant.
He has been a frequent guest conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops. He has also been a guest with the Houston Symphony, Cincinnati Pops, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and others. 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 son, Alex, lives and works in Seattle with his wife and daughter, and his daughter, Charlotte, is a resident of New York City. He and his wife, Nora, live on Signal Mountain.