Rob Kapilow


For over 20 years Rob Kapilow has brought the joy and wonder of classical music – and unraveled some of its mysteries – to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Characterized by his unique ability to create an “aha” moment for his audiences and collaborators, whatever their level of musical sophistication or naiveté, Kapilow’s work brings music into people’s lives: opening new ears to musical experiences and helping people to listen actively rather than just hear. As the Boston Globe said, “It’s a cheering thought that this kind of missionary enterprise did not pass from this earth with Leonard Bernstein. Rob Kapilow is awfully good at what he does. We need him.”

Kapilow’s range of activities is astonishingly broad, including his What Makes It Great?® presentations (now for over twenty seasons in New York and Boston), his family compositions and Family Musik® events, his Citypieces, and residencies with institutions as diverse as the National Gallery of Canada and Stanford University. The reach of his interactive events and activities is wide, both geographically and culturally: from Native American tribal communities in Montana and inner-city high school students in Louisiana to audiences in Kyoto and Kuala Lumpur, and from tots barely out of diapers to musicologists in Ivy League programs, his audiences are diverse and unexpected, but invariably rapt and keen to come back for more.

A frequent guest speaker for corporate events, museums, business groups, foundations, hospitals, law schools, math departments and conferences, Rob Kapilow is constantly finding connections and intersections between music and the outside world, making art essential to everyday life.

Kapilow’s popularity and appeal are reflected in notable invitations and achievements: this past season he appeared six times on the PBS NewsHour with segments ranging from Somewhere Over The Rainbow to Brahms and Mozart. He appeared on NBC’s Today Show in conversation with Katie Couric; he presented a special What Makes It Great?® event for broadcast on PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center; and he has written two highly popular books published by Wiley/Lincoln Center: All You Have To Do Is Listen which won the PSP Prose Award for Best Book in Music and the Performing Arts, and What Makes It Great (2011), the first book of its kind to be especially designed for the iPad with embedded musical examples. A documentary film, named Summer Sun, Winter Moon after Kapilow’s choral/symphonic work of the same name, which traces the process of that work’s composition from its conception through to its premiere, has been broadcast hundreds of times on Public Television since 2009.

Rob Kapilow dedicates his summer months to writing and composing new music, most recently Chrysopylae, a large-scale work commissioned by the Marin Symphony to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, which was premiered to great acclaim.  He was also the first composer to be granted the rights to set Dr. Seuss’ words to music, and his Green Eggs and Ham has been called “the most successful piece written for families this half century”. A new CD featuring Nathan Gunn and Isabel Leonard in two more of his popular FamilyMusik® compositions, Chris van Allsburg’s Polar Express and Dr. Seuss’s Gertrude McFuzz, was released in November 2014.

Numerous major awards and grants have marked Kapilow’s career. He won first place in the Fontainebleau Casadesus Piano Competition and was the second-place winner of the Antal Dorati Conductor’s Competition with the Detroit Symphony. As a composer, Kapilow was a featured on Chicago Public Radio’s prestigious “Composers In America” series and is a recipient of an Exxon “Meet-the-Composer” grant and numerous ASCAP awards.

Kapilow has conducted many of North America's finest orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Toronto, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Detroit Symphonies and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He is an exclusive G. Schirmer composer and his many compositions have been performed by nearly every major American orchestra as well as orchestras in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Kapilow has conducted many new works of musical theater, ranging from the Tony Award-winning Nine on Broadway to the premiere of Frida for the opening of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s “Next Wave Festival” and premieres of works for the American Repertory Theater.


He is the conductor/creative director of What Makes It Great?®  for the Celebrity Series of Boston, New York’s Merkin Concert Hall, Washington Performing Arts, the Cerritos Center for the Arts, and the Toronto Symphony.  This season he begins a new series at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.  He has been conductor/director ofFamilyMusik® for New York’s Lincoln Center and 92nd Street Y, co-director of the Rutgers SummerFest Festival, assistant conductor of the Opera Company of Boston, Music Director of the touring company Opera New England, and conductor of the Kansas City Symphony’s summer FamilyFare program. He was also music director of the Yale Symphony Orchestra for five seasons.

At the age of 19, Kapilow interrupted his academic work at Yale University to study with the legendary Nadia Boulanger. Two years later, after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Yale, he continued his studies at the Eastman School of Music. After graduating from Eastman, he returned to Yale, where he was assistant professor for six years at the university. He lives in River Vale, NJ, with his wife and three children.

(August 2016. Please discard previously dated materials and contact before making any alterations or cuts.)