Morihiko Nakahara, Music Director


The 2021-2022 season marks Morihiko Nakahara’s 14th season as Music Director of the South Carolina Philharmonic, and he also serves as Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Nakahara just completed a successful 17 year tenure as Resident Conductor of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, where he will return to conduct throughout the season. In addition to his wide ranging activities with these orchestras, Nakahara will also guest conduct the symphony orchestras of Virginia, Portland, Ann Arbor, and Charleston (SC) as well as the Massachusetts Music Educators Association Eastern District Senior Orchestra.

Known for his charismatic presence on and off the podium, innovative and audience-friendly programming skills, and thoughtful interpretations of both standard and contemporary repertoire, Nakahara was featured in the League of American Orchestra’s prestigious Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview in March 2005. Recent guest conducting engagements include appearances with the Buffalo Philharmonic, symphonies of Oregon, Jacksonville, Charleston, Chattanooga, Stockton, Lansing, Peoria, and Green Bay, as well as with the Chicago Pro Musica and the 2019 Maine All-State Orchestra. Recipient of the David Effron Conducting Fellowship at the Chautauqua Institution in 1999, he recently returned to guest conduct the Music School Festival Orchestra there.

Equally at home in a wide variety of musical styles and concert formats, Nakahara has collaborated with Chris Botti, Béla Fleck & the Flecktones, Edgar Meyer, Brandi Carlile, Pink Martini, and Sergio Mendes to name a few. He is also known for leading concerts synchronizing live orchestral music with film, including Star Wars: A New Hope, Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, Pixar in Concert, The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, and Disney in Concert. A tireless champion for the music of our times, Nakahara recently led world premieres of works by Joan Tower, Dan Visconti, and John Fitz Rogers, and has led numerous U.S. premieres of works by Japanese composers. 

A native of Kagoshima, Japan, Nakahara holds degrees from Andrews University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He previously served as Associate Conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the Holland Symphony Orchestra (Michigan), and served on the faculty at Eastern Washington University and Andrews University.

Nakahara, his wife Lesley Hogg, and their cats Figaro and Rosina reside in Northampton, MA. Stay in touch with Nakahara via Twitter and Instagram.