Matthew Straw conducts at the Aspen Festival (detail) View full image

Matthew Straw joins MA roster

We are pleased to welcome American conductor Matthew Straw to the Maestro Arts roster. Aged only 25, he has recently been appointed Assistant Conductor of the Utah Symphony and international invitations so far have included the Aspen Music Festival and Salzburg Festival. He was selected for the prestigious Järvi Academy at the age of 20 and has just received a Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award for a second time – in 2022 he was the youngest ever recipient.

Straw is a polymath and took a double degree at Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music, with a BA in Philosophy and a BM in Conducting, Piano and Voice. He recently graduated from Eastman School of Music with an MM degree in conducting.

He composed from a young age and also trained in ballet dancing. Both his parents are conductors and voice teachers, and his formative musical experiences came while singing in their choirs. Singing has become an important part of how he studies and interprets scores. He says: ‘Coming from a background that’s so integrally vocal, I find that everything imitates the voice. I make sure I’ve sung everything that I can in a piece. If I haven’t done that, I don’t have a sense of how I’d like everything to be phrased. It’s only from imitating it that I have a real concept of how everything is supposed to sound. There’s something about singing that forces you to listen so you can find the right way.’

His ballet studies have also influenced his conducting, he explains: ‘I grew up dancing ballet. I found a lot of joy in expressing music physically and finding how you can generate sound through motion. It was intoxicating. When you get up there in front of an orchestra and a big choir, you are literally generating the sound. You are the catalyst through which the music speaks. It’s one of the most unbelievable feelings. In a way, conducting is like dancing in the future. Everything that I do is about changing the sound, influencing time and providing people with information they need. I don’t think about choreography consciously, though. It’s subliminal – something that happens as a result of an idea. If you’ve really studied a work and have a concept of it, your hands always go to the right place.’

Straw made his debut with Rochester Philharmonic in 2022 and was Associate Conductor at Des Moines Metro Opera in 2022. As assistant conductor he has worked with Kazushi Ono and the Brussels Philharmonic, Ilan Volkov and ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Straw will be managed by Rachel van Walsum, who has been mentoring him in recent years.