Interim Music Director
Born in New Zealand as the son of a professional opera singer, Cooper sang and acted in his first opera at age four and studied piano and music theory prior to college.
After completing his degree in pure mathematics at the University of Auckland, he traveled to the United States for further studies in music. His initial opportunities as a conductor grew from his colleagues’ invitations to lead them in larger chamber ensemble performances. Since then, his many guest conducting engagements have included the Houston Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, The Florida Orchestra, Pasadena Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic, Buffalo Philharmonic, Rochester Philharmonic, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia, and Syracuse Opera, among many others. Recently, he made successful debut appearances with the Kennedy Center Orchestra and, on the international stage, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Malaysian Philharmonic.
Cooper served as resident conductor of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra from 1997-2007. He accepted a position as artistic director and conductor of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra in 2001 and was named Music Director Emeritus in 2021. He continues to return to West Virginia as a guest conductor and will, this season, conduct an extraordinary 800th public performance with the orchestra. He also serves as artistic director of the annual Bach & Beyond festival in Fredonia, New York and as resident conductor of the Eastern Music Festival.
A commissioned composer, Cooper’s concert works include A Song of Longing, Though…, for soprano and orchestra, which has received numerous performances in recent seasons, and his ballet, On the Appalachian Trail, which was premiered in 2010 at Chautauqua. He recently completed a commission to write original film scores for two Charlie Chaplin movies and composed a chamber work on commission from the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, which was premiered there in May, 2012. Cooper is especially passionate about creating works designed to introduce young audiences to the orchestra and has created a substantial body of works for this purpose, including Rumpelstiltzkin, a Cayuga Chamber Orchestra commission.
Cooper has recorded for Delos International, Atoll, Ode, Mark, and Kiwi Pacific recordings, and has the unique distinction of having CD recordings of himself as conductor, performer, and composer, all currently available in the catalog.
Cooper’s dedication to serving the West Virginia arts community was recognized in the spring of 2012 with his receiving the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service in the Arts and with Fairmont State University’s conferring the degree of Doctor of Letters in 2017.
Having served as professor of music at Ithaca College from 1993-2003, Cooper is currently a Visiting Professor at the college, conducting the college orchestra on an interim basis.