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Meet the Musicians

Meet the Music Director Designate: Thomas Søndergård

Thomas Søndergård | Photo by Andy Buchanan

The Minnesota Orchestra announced today that Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård will succeed Osmo Vänskä to become the 11th music director to lead the Orchestra in its 120-year history. Described as a conductor whose “flawless feel for the music’s shape and drama galvanized musicians to give of their very best” (The Times, London), Søndergård will initially serve as music director designate in the 2022-23 season before beginning his new role in Minnesota in September 2023. Under the terms of a five-year contract beginning in the 2023-24 season, Søndergård will lead the Orchestra in at least 12 weeks of concerts and activities a year.

My impression of the Minnesota Orchestra is that it is an ensemble with tremendous heart. There is a warmth, an openness and a cooperative spirit among the musicians that fits very well into the way that I like to make music. ”

Thomas Søndergård, music director designate

“Thomas is a supremely skilled conductor.

As a timpanist who played in a professional orchestra for many years and worked with many conductors, he has a great perspective on how to do this joband it shows.” 

—Anthony Ross, principal cello

“Thomas' first performances with our Orchestra already felt like the beginning of an exciting relationship.

He has a warm and inviting presence on the podium that united musicians across the stage, and we found him to be tremendously energizing and inspiringwe think audiences will too. I’m excited to discover where this musical collaboration with Thomas will take us and how we will grow together in our music making.”  

—Kristen Bruya, principal bass

Søndergård has led major European and North American orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Gewandhaus Orchestra, Houston Symphony, London Philharmonic and symphonies of London, Montreal and Toronto. He was appointed music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) in 2018 after six seasons as its principal guest conductor and will continue this role alongside his Minnesota appointment. Prior to joining the RSNO, he served as principal conductor and musical advisor to the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and then as principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW).  In 2005 he led the Royal Danish Opera in the premiere of Poul Ruders’ Kafka’s Trial to wide acclaim and subsequently returned many times to the Royal Danish Opera to lead works by Rossini, Mozart, Puccini and Janáček. Søndergård began his music career as a timpanist, joining the Royal Danish Orchestra after graduating from the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

“Thomas has a very warm, magnanimous presence

on the podium that brings the musicians together and gives the Orchestra license to make music with a lot of joy. He is a leader who has a vision for what music can accomplish on a global scale and fundamentally understands the importance of investing in our home community, connecting with audiences and committing himself to take care of the whole organization.” 

—Erin Keefe, concertmaster

“His interpretation was exciting, and he trusted the musicians to do our job in a way that gave us great freedom.

We connected with his conducting style—which showed a generosity of spirit that was very much about ‘us’ and what we can do together. This partnership feels like an exciting new trajectory to build on the accomplishments of the Orchestra over the last two decades.” 

—R. Douglas Wright, principal trombone

He next conducts the Minnesota Orchestra in three performances, October 20-22, 2022, with a program that includes Lili Boulanger’s Of a Spring Morning and two ballet scores: Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The performance on Friday, October 21, will be livestreamed on the Orchestra’s website and social media channels.

Søndergård first led the Minnesota Orchestra in December 2021 performances that included Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade for Orchestra, Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 featuring guest soloist Ingrid Fliter. He returned in April 2022 to conduct Debussy’s La Mer and Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements.

Thomas Søndergård was introduced to Minnesota Orchestra supporters in an event that was  livestreamed via the Orchestra’s social media channels on Friday, July 29. Watch the recap below, or replay the entire event on our YouTube channel.


Video: Thomas Søndergård greeted Minnesota Orchestra supporters in an in-person and livestreamed welcome event.

He understands the many dimensions of being a music director, including the need to curate imaginative seasons for wide audiences, to bring out the best in musicians and to galvanize the community with an artistic vision. His approach is a good fit for our collaborative leadership model. He has the qualities of a great musical leader.”

Michelle Miller Burns, President and CEO

Want to see more from the music director designate?

Thomas Søndergård led the Minnesota Orchestra in concert December 3, 2021, as part of This Is Minnesota Orchestra. We've released the episode for all to watch free of charge through August 31 so you can experience a concert with Søndergård. You can also subscribe to access our entire library of content year-round from the Digital Concert Hall.

Watch Søndergård Now

About Thomas Søndergård

Born in Holstebro, Denmark, in 1969, Thomas Søndergård studied percussion under Gert Mortensen at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen from 1989 to 1992. During those student years, Søndergård served as percussionist in the London-based European Union Youth Orchestra, a training ensemble that regularly tours Europe. In 1992, he joined the Royal Danish Orchestra as timpanist and began studying conducting with Yves Abel, Alexander Polianichko and Graham Bond.

In 2009, Søndergård became the principal conductor and musical adviser of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra (through 2012), and he captured an additional conducting post when he was named principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW, serving 2012-2018). In 2018 he became music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), following six seasons as that orchestra’s principal guest conductor. Over his tenure, he has led the ensemble on tours across Europe, China and the U.S., and conducted numerous premieres of new works and commissions. This September he’ll lead Nicola Benedetti and the RSNO in the BBC Proms premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto, alongside works by Britten, Bernstein and Thomas Adès. His will hold his RSNO post concurrently with his position in Minnesota.  

Read Thomas Søndergård's full bio here.

Here was a conductor of the highest caliber who invited the musicians to make music with him, and the result was thrilling. We believe he will be a powerful advocate for our music and musicians in the years ahead. His humanity, artistry and collaborative approach are a great match for the Orchestra and our community.”

Joseph T. Green, board chair

Upcoming Performances with Thomas Søndergård:


Thursday, October 20, 2022, 11 a.m. / Orchestra Hall
Friday, October 21, 2022, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall *
Saturday, October 22, 2022, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall

BOULANGER                    Of a Spring Morning
RAVEL                             Mother Goose [complete ballet]
STRAVINSKY                   The Rite of Spring

* The Friday evening concert will be livestreamed at minnesotaorchestra.org and on the Orchestra’s social media channels and broadcast live on YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio.

Your next music director—Experience the thrill!

Now's your chance to see Thomas Søndergård, music director designate, on the podium in October. Choose from three curated packages, available for a limited time. Buying now puts you first in line to renew your package for Søndergård’s 2023-24 Inaugural Season.