29-Year-Old Kedrick Armstrong Named Oakland Symphony Music Director

By Keegan Morris |

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Kedrick Armstrong conducting

Kedrick Armstrong (Photo: Steve Davis)

Kedrick Armstrong has been named the music director of the Oakland Symphony. The 29-year-old is the ninth conductor to hold this role in the orchestra’s history.

Armstrong is Oakland’s first music director since the shocking death of conductor Michael Morgan, the ensemble’s 30-year leader. Morgan died in August 2021 at age 63. Early in the beloved conductor’s career, Morgan was appointed CSO assistant conductor by Sir Georg Solti, a first for a Black conductor in that organization. Under Morgan’s leadership, Oakland surged as a formidable creative and activistic force in classical music.

Michael Morgan

Michael Morgan (Photo courtesy the Sacramento Symphony)

Oakland’s new music director first led the orchestra in 2022. And in February 2024, Armstrong made his subscription debut leading works by Joan Tower, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Carlos Simon (a world premiere commission dedicated to Paul Robeson).

The newly appointed Armstrong will make his first performances as music director in October 2024, opening the orchestra’s season with works by Julia Perry and Carl Nielsen. Taking the podium for three more of the season’s four remaining subscription concerts, Armstrong will also conduct works by Shawn E. Okpebholo, Errollyn Wallen, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Reena Esmail, Johannes Brahms, and more.

Born in South Carolina, Armstrong has deep ties to Chicago. In the 2018-19 season, he was a Chicago Sinfonietta’s Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellow. He has conducted performances for the Sinfonietta as well as Lyric Opera of Chicago – he’s on the music staff for the organization – as well as Chicago Opera Theater and DePaul Opera Theater. Armstrong has also engaged in work with the Chicago Urban League, the Ravinia Festival, and the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative. He is an alumnus of Wheaton College and holds a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Kedrick Armstrong is also the creative partner and principal conductor of Illinois’s Knox-Galesburg Symphony, about 150 miles southwest of Chicago. He is slated to conduct at the Opera Theater of St. Louis later this season.