Sarah Hicks is the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, a broad-spectrum series of popular music, jazz, world music, Broadway classics, movie scores, comedy and other genres. In this role, she oversees planning of the Live at Orchestra Hall season and conducts many performances on that series by the full Orchestra. She also conducts the Inside the Classics series, now in its eighth season.
During the 2016-17 Live at Orchestra Hall season, Hicks will lead the Minnesota Orchestra in concerts with Minnesota rapper-vocalist Dessa, the Grammy Award-winning ensemble Boyz II Men, Ray Charles’ protégé Ellis Hall, and vocalists Hilary Kole and Tony DeSare, as well as the Inside the Classics series and film music concerts of Star Trek, It’s A Wonderful Life and Disney-Pixar’s Ratatouille.
Hicks was the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of pops and presentations from 2009 to 2013; for three prior seasons she was the Orchestra’s assistant conductor. In 2008 she helped introduce a new Minnesota Orchestra holiday offering, arranging music for and conducting “A Scandinavian Christmas” concerts. She has twice conducted the Orchestra in classical subscription concerts, including fully-staged performances of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel in 2009. Since 2007 she has conducted the Inside the Classics series, which in 2012 featured the world premiere of Acadia, a major work by New York-based composer Judd Greenstein—commissioned specifically for Inside the Classics and funded entirely through donations by more than 400 individuals, via the Orchestra’s innovative Musical MicroCommission project.
Hicks has garnered national and international acclaim: she has guest conducted both in the U.S. and abroad, leading such ensembles as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Alabama Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Cincinnati Pops, Delaware Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Santa Fe Symphony, Edmonton Symphony, Victoria (Canada) Symphony, Prime Philharmonic of Korea, Kansai Philharmonic, Nagoya Philharmonic and Tokyo Philharmonic.
During the summer of 2011 Hicks served as conductor for Sting’s Symphonicities Tour, leading 31 concerts over two months in venues throughout Europe. She has completed a recording project with the Vermont Symphony, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson. She recently made her conducting debuts with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, RTE Concert Orchestra and Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra. She also conducted performances of the East Slovak State Opera and Curtis Opera Studio. Her engagements for the 2016-17 season include returns to the San Francisco Symphony, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and San Diego Symphony, and debuts with the Dallas, Nashville and Toronto Symphonies.
In 2012 Hicks completed a three-year tenure as associate conductor of the North Carolina Symphony. Earlier she was associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony, resident conductor of the Florida Philharmonic and assistant conductor of the Reading Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Singers (the chorus of the Philadelphia Orchestra), which she has led in radio broadcasts heard on National Public Radio.
Born in Tokyo and raised in Honolulu, Hicks received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University as a composition major; her AIDS Oratorio was premiered there in May 1993 and received a second performance at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum. She holds an artist’s diploma in conducting from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with renowned pedagogue Otto-Werner Mueller. After graduation, she maintained her association with Curtis as a faculty member from 2000 to 2005. She currently continues her affiliation as staff conductor.
Hicks is the first woman to hold a titled conductor post in the Minnesota Orchestra’s history.