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Meet Guest Conductor Donald Portnoy

Dr. Donald Portnoy is universally recognized as one of America’s dynamic and inspiring symphony orchestra conductors.

He brings to music a unique awareness and appreciation for the audience and a refreshing sensitivity toward the musicians with whom he works. He has earned fame as guest conductor with the major orchestras of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Buffalo, as well as other major regional orchestras throughout the United States, Argentina, Brazil, China, England, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, South Korea, Italy, Romania, Switzerland and Spain.

Donald has served as music director and conductor of the Pittsburgh Opera Theater and the Pittsburgh Civic Symphony. In March 2004, Donald received Columbia University’s 2004 Ditson Conductor’s Award for his commitment to the performance of works by American composers. In June 2004, he was awarded the Greater Augusta Arts Council’s “Artist of the Year” Award. From 1991 until 2009, Donald was music director and conductor of the Augusta Symphony in Georgia. In 2006, he was appointed music director and conductor of the Brevard Philharmonic in North Carolina. In 2016, Donald helped found the Aiken Symphony Orchestra and continues to be its music director and conductor.

Donald held the Ira McKissick Koger Endowed Chair for the Fine Arts at the University of South Carolina, where he was director of orchestral studies and conductor of the USC Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, and professor of violin. He is also founder and director of the renowned Conductors Institute, whose participants come from all parts of the United States and abroad to study orchestral conducting. This past summer, the Institute celebrated its 40th anniversary as one of America’s premier summer training programs for conductors.

In December 2012, Donald was guest conductor of the National Symphony in Beijing. He also held masterclasses in conducting and violin at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, the Conservatory in Wuhan, and Nanchang University. In October 2013, he conducted orchestras in Kunming and Shenzhen, China. In July 2014, he was guest conductor for two concerts in Kunming. In January 2015 and 2018, he held conducting masterclasses in China. In 2019, he was guest faculty member of the Conductor’s Workshop at Queens College in New York City. In 2015, Donald was the recipient of the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award, South Carolina’s highest arts award. In May 2016, he was awarded the South Carolina Order of the Palmetto.