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Students, Faculty + Alumni

Samuel Hollister named assistant conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Sam Hollister

Samuel Hollister ’18BA ’28DMA was named assistant conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on July 1. In addition to leading the ensemble in a children’s concert in October, Hollister will make several appearances on the podium throughout the season. Primary to his role will be assisting SLSO Music Director Stéphane Denève and high-profile guest conductors. “During his audition with the orchestra,” Denève said in a press release, “Samuel showed a very sophisticated and mature understanding of the symphonic repertoire, a vivid imagination, and inspiring musicality.”

“From the first moment I heard the SLSO live in January,” Hollister said in the press release, “I knew that this was an astonishingly special orchestra. Working with this orchestra has already been a blessing, not only because of its extraordinary level of musical excellence, but also because of its warmth and its sense of family.”

Hollister was also named the Fred M. Saigh Youth Orchestra Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. Marie-Helene Bernard, the SLSO’s president and CEO, said, “We were impressed by (Hollister’s) commitment to education, which positions him as a great leader of our Youth Orchestra.”

“I am looking forward to getting to know him more and see him grow also in the position of Music Director of our precious St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra,” Denève said.

“To me,” Hollister said, “working with young musicians is about much more than just fostering musical excellence and passion: it’s about mentorship, too. I have always relished that opportunity to get to know young musicians personally and to help them navigate their musical lives.”

As Music Director of the SLSYO, Hollister will conduct the youth orchestra, as well as lead programming, rehearsals, and collaborate with the administration to develop the orchestra’s community outreach efforts. “It's an especially exciting time for both orchestras and for St. Louis, since the ongoing renovations of the incredible Powell Hall will be completed within a year,” Hollister said. “I feel very lucky to be part of the organization at such an important historic threshold.” 

This latest chapter in Hollister’s own musical life follows a rewarding several years working with the Yale Philharmonia, which he described as “an orchestra of an extremely high caliber, filled with my dearest friends.” Hollister recalled how Yale Philharmonia Principal Conductor Peter Oundjian talked with him on the phone for an hour and a half the night before his SLSO audition “as a guide, reminding me of what I am already confident in, what aspects of my musical self are important to bring forward, and how to stay in control in the face of nerves. I owe so much to him, to Jeff (Mistri, the Yale Philharmonia manager), and to many other mentors and supporters in YSM and beyond,” he said.

Hollister first met Leonard Slatkin, conductor laureate of the SLSO, in January 2023, when Slatkin conducted the Yale Philharmonia. “(Slatkin) generously asked me to conduct some of the dress rehearsal of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra both so that he could listen to the acoustic in Woolsey Hall and see me work,” Hollister said. “After that, he was very eager to help me however he could, and I'm so grateful to him for making the first connection between me and SLSO that led to me guest covering this past January. Leonard was my first true conductor idol as a kid, so I feel especially fortunate to count him as a mentor now.”

Hollister, who will serve the SLSO for two years, is a doctor-of-musical-arts degree candidate at the Yale School of Music and serves as music director of the Civic Orchestra of New Haven. A champion of new music and a multi-instrumentalist, Hollister earned his undergraduate degree from Yale and a master-of-music degree in orchestral conducting and theory pedagogy from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University. He founded the nonprofit Aurora Collaborative in Rhode Island in 2018 and in 2022-2023 served as director of orchestral activities at the University of Rhode Island.

Learn more about Samuel Hollister at samuelfargohollister.com and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at slso.org.