Grant Llewellyn

Grant Llewellyn

Raleigh, NC  – In recognition of his extraordinary tenure and artistic accomplishments, the North Carolina Symphony (NCS) is pleased to announce that Music Director Grant Llewellyn has been named Music Director Laureate beginning in the 2020/21 season. Llewellyn will conclude his tenure as Music Director at the end of the 2019/20 season, by which point he will have served in the position for 16 seasons. His appointment as Music Director Laureate covers an initial four-year term  – through the 2023/24 season  – by which point his relationship with NCS will have spanned 20 years.

“I am deeply honoured to have been offered the title of Music Director Laureate. The North Carolina Symphony has played a central role in my career and in my entire family’s life over the past 15 years, and I am delighted to maintain a relationship with this wonderful orchestra,” says Llewellyn. “I am enormously grateful to the musicians, the administration, and our audiences for having made my tenure here such an enjoyable and fruitful experience. It brings me great joy to see the orchestra continue to thrive, and I wish the NCS family all the very best in this next exciting new chapter.”

“Under Grant’s creative vision and direction, the North Carolina Symphony’s artistic excellence has thrived and reached new heights, year after year,” says NCS President & CEO Sandi Macdonald. “Beyond his inspiring leadership on the podium, Grant is exceptional in his ability to connect with audiences, fully embracing our mission to serve and reflect the culture of our entire state. He is a treasured presence in communities throughout North Carolina, and NCS is thrilled that he will continue his relationship with us as Music Director Laureate.”

“Grant has developed the North Carolina Symphony into the outstanding orchestra it is today, while remaining steadfast in his commitment to the values that make NCS unique: statewide service and music education,” says Don Davis, Chair of the North Carolina Symphony Society Board. “We are grateful for his many years of inspired music-making, and look forward to what is to come in his new role with the Symphony.”

Llewellyn will return to North Carolina for a number of annual engagements with NCS, while pursuing guest conducting opportunities worldwide and continuing in his position with Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne in France, where he has served as Music Director since 2015.

Appointed in 2004, Llewellyn’s work with the North Carolina Symphony has been defined by an increasing caliber of musicianship in the orchestra; by the end of his tenure, he will have selected more than 45% of the musicians on the roster, and position openings have consistently yielded an impressive pool of national and international candidates.

“For 15 seasons, the musicians of the North Carolina Symphony have been honored to perform under Maestro Grant Llewellyn,” says NCS Assistant Concertmaster Karen Strittmatter Galvin, Chair of the Orchestra Committee. “He has shaped and transformed the sound of our orchestra, and having attracted some of the best players in the country, we know that his legacy will continue far into the future.”

Llewellyn has enjoyed a unique chemistry with the orchestra and has challenged NCS musicians with monumental repertoire, from Mahler symphonies to Britten’s War Requiem. When NCS presented Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben  – one of the most notoriously difficult works in the classical canon  – in May 2018, Classical Voice of North Carolina lauded the performance for its “technical prowess while keeping the highest level of emotional sensitivity … with Grant Llewellyn at the helm, this seemed effortless.”

Audience members and critics alike have increasingly recognized the high level of musicianship under Llewellyn’s direction. In May 2017, Classical Voice of North Carolina noted: “The North Carolina Symphony has rarely, if ever, sounded better.” In March 2018, the same publication asserted: “If ever there were a doubt about the North Carolina Symphony’s position as a first-rank orchestra, it was completely erased after Friday’s performance.”

Llewellyn has recorded four commercial albums with NCS, all receiving critical acclaim; album collaborators have included Branford Marsalis, Yevgeny Subdin, and Zuill Bailey. A fifth CD  – the third with Bailey, also featuring violist Roberto Díaz  – will be recorded in spring 2019. Llewellyn’s concert collaborators on the NCS stage have included some of the world’s greatest talents: cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinists Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell, soprano Renée Fleming, pianist Lang Lang, singer James Taylor, and bluegrass artist Rhiannon Giddens, among many others.

From the beginning of his tenure in 2004, Llewellyn’s leadership has expanded the Symphony’s reach to national and international audiences. From 2004 through 2015, Llewellyn’s performances with NCS were broadcast over the air and online in partnership with radio stations WUNC and WCPE. In 2017, Llewellyn and NCS took to a national stage when the Symphony was one of four orchestras showcased in the inaugural year of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Presenting works exclusively with ties to North Carolina and exclusively by 21st-century composers, the program was praised for its innovation in The New York TimesThe New Yorker, and The Washington Post.

Innovation has been a hallmark of Llewellyn’s tenure and has contributed in large part to the Symphony’s reputation as one of the most forward-thinking orchestras in the country. The number of U.S. and world premieres presented in NCS history has reached nearly 50; under Llewellyn’s leadership, the Symphony has commissioned or co-commissioned works by composers including Caroline Shaw, Sarah Kirkland Snider, William Brittelle, Gabriele Kahane, Terry Mizesko, and others. Committed to giving voice to new art by some of today’s most talented composers, Llewellyn has established NCS as an orchestra industry leader in presenting work by female composers. Works by women have been prominently featured every year since the 2009/10 season; on the 2017/18 Classical Season, two-thirds of living composers programmed were women.

Llewellyn’s creativity extends beyond the music he programs; it has also helped to shape the way NCS engages with its communities. In recent years, NCS has strengthened or formed new partnerships with arts and educational organizations, and Llewellyn has driven forward and conducted numerous joint productions with the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, PlayMakers Repertory Company, and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences  – collaborations that have created unique arts experiences greater than the sum of their parts. In 2011, a memorial concert remembering the events of September 11, 2001, brought together performers and audience members from across North Carolina, and was broadcast live in partnership with television stations WRAL and UNC-TV.

Llewellyn’s eagerness to explore a wide variety of music and engage diverse audiences has meant that North Carolinians across generations, communities, and musical genres have had opportunities to experience his talent and perspectives. Throughout his tenure with NCS, Llewellyn has not only delivered inspired performances of classical repertoire at the Symphony’s state headquarters venue, Meymandi Concert Hall, but also appears on Pops Season and Summerfest programs, and travels for concerts in Chapel Hill, Southern Pines, Wilmington, New Bern, Fayetteville, and other communities throughout the state.

Llewellyn paid tribute to North Carolina’s cultural heritage in three programs that toured statewide. Blue Skies and Red Earth in 2007 featured musical traditions of Western North Carolina, from bluegrass to gospel; Blue Skies and Golden Sands in 2009 featured musical traditions of Eastern North Carolina, from fishing work-songs to beach music; and Si Otsedoha (We’re Still Here)in 2018 featured the premiere of a new work created in partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Llewellyn has also brought his own heritage to his adopted home in the U.S., presenting traditional Welsh music for North Carolina audiences.

Passionate about inspiring young people with music, Llewellyn regularly conducts NCS Education Concerts. Carrying his commitment to music education further, he reaches lifelong learners through pre-concert talks and speaking engagements at community venues ranging from bookstores, to retirement homes, to universities.

Llewellyn’s distinctive combination of brilliant artistry, creativity and charisma, and thoughtful community engagement has translated into strong achievement in ticket sales and fundraising. NCS has seen record ticket revenue in each of the past five seasons, and Symphony donors have valued opportunities to connect with Llewellyn at private events.

NCS will celebrate Grant Llewellyn throughout his final season in 2019/20 with special concerts and events to be announced. The Symphony will form a committee of musicians, trustees, and staff to lead the search for Llewellyn’s successor.

This information, along with a photo gallery highlighting Llewellyn’s accomplishments, is online at

About the North Carolina Symphony
Founded in 1932, the North Carolina Symphony (NCS) is a vital and honored component of North Carolina’s cultural life. Each year, the North Carolina Symphony’s 300 concerts, education programs, and community engagement events are enjoyed by adults and schoolchildren in more than 90 North Carolina counties  – in communities large and small, and in concert halls, auditoriums, gymnasiums, restaurants, clubs, and outdoor settings. The Symphony’s full-time professional musicians perform under the artistic leadership of Music Director Grant Llewellyn.

NCS’s state headquarters venue is the spectacular Meymandi Concert Hall at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. The Symphony’s service across the state includes series in Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, New Bern, Southern Pines, and Wilmington, as well as the Summerfest series at its summer home, the outdoor Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. NCS brings some of the world’s greatest talents to North Carolina and embraces home-state artists from classical musicians to bluegrass bands, creating live music experiences distinctive to North Carolina.

Committed to engaging students of all ages across North Carolina, NCS leads the most extensive education program of any symphony orchestra  – serving nearly 70,000 students each year. In alignment with the curriculum set by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the Symphony provides training and resources for teachers, sends small ensembles into classrooms, and presents full-orchestra Education Concerts that bring the fundamentals of music to life. Music Discovery for preschoolers combines music with storytelling, and at the middle and high school levels, students have opportunities to work directly with NCS artists and perform for NCS audiences.

NCS is dedicated to giving voice to new art, and has presented 49 U.S. or world premieres in its history. In 2017, NCS appeared at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as one of four orchestras chosen for the inaugural year of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras  – an honor that recognized the Symphony’s creative programming and innovative community partnerships.

The first state-supported symphony in the country, NCS performs under the auspices of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. To learn more, visit

About Music Director Grant Llewellyn
Grant Llewellyn is renowned for his exceptional charisma, energy, and easy authority in music of all styles and periods. A native of Tenby, South Wales, Llewellyn won a conducting fellowship to the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts in 1985, where he worked with conducting legends Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Kurt Masur, and André Previn. As Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the early 1990s, he conducted at the Tanglewood Music Festival, and on classical series and Boston Pops concerts.

Llewellyn has conducted many orchestras in North America, most notably the symphonies of Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Milwaukee, Montreal, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Toronto. As Music Director of the Handel and Haydn Society, America’s leading period orchestra, he gained a reputation as a formidable interpreter of music of the Baroque and Classical periods.

Music Director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne since 2015, Llewellyn has held positions with numerous other European orchestras  – including Principal Conductor of the Royal Flanders Philharmonic, Principal Guest Conductor of the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, and Associate Guest Conductor with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Recent guest engagements include the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Royal Scottish National Orchestra, amongst others. An accomplished opera conductor, Llewellyn’s recent productions include the U.S. premiere of Handel’s Richard the Lionheart with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Fidelio with the Opéra de Rennes.

Llewellyn has led NCS in four critically acclaimed recordings, most recently Britten’s Cello Symphony and Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante, both with cellist Zuill Bailey. A fifth album with NCS, featuring Zuill Bailey and violist Roberto Díaz in Strauss’ Don Quixote, will be recorded in spring 2019.

Deeply committed and passionate about engaging young people with music, Llewellyn regularly leads education activities with NCS and around the world. In 2017 he led the first ever “relaxed” BBC Prom with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, a concert specially designed for those with autism, sensory and communication impairments, and learning disabilities.