Carnegie Mellon University

Gil Rose, illustrated with a coral circle and streaks of blue behind him.

Modern Music

Gil Rose: Into the Future

written by
Dan Fernandez

When Conductor Gil Rose graduated from the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music with a master’s degree, he was only too aware of a major gap in the world of classical music.

Whether in order to balance their budgets or to appeal to the broadest audiences, professional orchestras overwhelmingly programmed their concerts with music written by composers who had been dead for more than a century.

In 1996, Rose decided to blaze a new path. He founded the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, a performing ensemble that greatly expanded the typical repertoire and grew to focus exclusively on new music by both living composers and 20th-century masters. Under his two decades of leadership as artistic director, BMOP commissioned 30 new works of music, gave more than 70 world premieres, founded a new record label (BMOP/sound), and was nominated for five Grammy Awards, winning Best Opera Recording in 2020 for Tobias Picker’s opera “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

Rose’s star had been rising even before the Grammys took notice. He was named the Best Conductor of 2003 by Opera Online, and The New York Times called BMOP “one of the most artistically valuable in the country.”

Denis Colwell, the Jack G. Buncher Head of the CMU School of Music, agreed.

“The BMOP recording project is easily the most important classical music recording achievement in the past 25 years,” he said.

In Rose’s view, however, creating a new orchestra model is more vital than winning awards. Starting BMOP “wasn’t about advocating for repertoire but advocating for flexibility. There’s a stagnation that comes in believing institutions are eternal, when people value safety and security instead of artistic ideas. We got to 25 years, still advocating for this mission completely.”

Rose offered similar praise for the way professors at the School of Music positively affected his career.

“Most important in my development was the chance to work with master teachers Samuel Jones, Juan Pablo Izquierdo and Robert Page in a distinguished graduate conducting program,” Rose said. “My time at CMU remains vivid for me.”