Grant Cooper has served as Artistic Director and Conductor of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra since 2001, where he has conducted over 750 public performances. He was formerly Resident Conductor of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra for ten seasons. He also serves as Artistic Director of the Bach and Beyond Festival, and for several summers led the Anchorage Festival of Music in Alaska. As a conductor, Mr. Cooper is noted for his affinity for the music of virtually every era.
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, the son of a professional opera singer, Cooper sang and acted in his first opera at age four. After completing his degree in Pure Mathematics at the University of Auckland, his performing career as a trumpeter took him to Beijing, London, and many major concert halls of the world. In 1976, Mr. Cooper accepted a fellowship from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council for trumpet study with Bernard Adelstein and Gerard Schwarz in the United States, where he also held a fellowship at Tanglewood.
Mr. Cooper was guest conductor of the XIVth Commonwealth Games closing ceremonies, appearing with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa as soloist. Mr. Cooper's collaborations with artists such as Hilary Hahn, Midori, Elmar Oliviera, Barry Douglas, and Deborah Voigt have prompted critical praise for his skills as an accompanist.
Mr. Cooper has been a frequent guest conductor for many American symphonies, including Houston, Buffalo, Rochester, Spokane, Kansas City, New Mexico, and Chautauqua. In recent seasons he made his debut appearances as guest conductor with the Jacksonville, Elgin, and Wichita symphonies. A gifted opera conductor, his recent repertoire includes Cosi fan tutte, The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville, Tosca, La bohème, and Carmen. For several summers, he has conducted the ballet season at Chautauqua Institution, NY, featuring Charlotte Ballet's recreations of George Balanchine's choreography. Recent international engagements have included the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Malaysian Philharmonic.
As a composer, Cooper's recent original music includes A Song of Longing, Though…, for soprano and orchestra and On the Appalachian Trail, a ballet. Mr. Cooper's original scores for two Charlie Chaplin films: The Immigrant and Easy Street, was premiered in March, 2009 and has since been performed by several orchestras on their Pops and Coffee series.
Mr. Cooper is especially passionate about creating works designed to introduce young audiences to the orchestra, including such works as Rumpelstiltzkin for narrator and orchestra, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Boyz in the Wood, for coloratura soprano and rap singer, and Song of the Wolf, for folk singer and orchestra. His educational music is an eclectic blend of modern and established styles with interactive participation of the audience, a compositional style that reflects his belief that orchestral music is a living, vital, and relevant part of our society, able to be appreciated by all.
Cooper was awarded the National Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Commission following competitive adjudication as part of the 2010 American Residency program of the NSO. His new work, Octagons, for Clarinet and String Quartet, was premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in May of 2012.
Cooper's dedication to serving the West Virginia arts community was recognized in the spring of 2012 when he received the Governor's Award for Distinguished Service in the Arts and with Fairmont State University's conferring the degree of Doctor of Letters in 2017.
Mr. Cooper has recorded for Delos International, Atoll, Ode, Mark, and Kiwi Pacific recordings.