Opera Memphis Welcomes Michael Sakir as New Music Director

By: Aug. 02, 2017

Opera Memphis welcomes conductor and pianist Michael Sakir as its new Music Director, allowing him to move fulltime to a city he considers his home-away-from-home, Memphis.

Sakir is a California native whose musical training took him to the Oberlin Conservatory and The Boston Conservatory, as well as to specialized programs across the country and abroad. His conducting career has been distinguished by balancing attention to stalwart works of the operatic canon with enthusiasm for new American opera, and his style is noted for its "artistic authority" and "great delicacy of feeling." He was guest conductor at Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Orlando, and Opera Company of Middlebury. In addition, he has served on the music staffs of Santa Fe Opera, Washington National Opera, and Florida Grand Opera. This spring, Sakir was selected to attend OPERA America's prestigious Leadership Intensive, a development program for opera's most promising young leaders.

Though not originally from Memphis, this is hardly Sakir's first time in the Bluff City. Over the past several years, he has been a frequent guest music director for Opera Memphis programs including 30 Days of Opera and the Midtown Opera Festival. During those visits, he took the opportunity to explore the city, nurture friendships with locals, and eat plenty of the delicious fare that makes us famous. As Memphis became a more frequent stop on his traveling schedule, Sakir discovered a real affinity for the city.

"I've spent the past three years as an 'itinerant musician' - traveling from job to job - and Memphis quickly became one of my favorite stops," says Sakir. "Before long, coming here started to feel like coming home. I had always promised myself I wouldn't settle down until I found the right job in the right city. This is it."

When asked what he loves so much about Memphis, Sakir cites "the vibrant arts scene, the incredible food culture, and the authenticity of Memphians" as major factors. In addition, being involved in Opera Memphis' nationally acclaimed 30 Days of Opera program gave him the opportunity to see how partnerships are built in Memphis - the "old-fashioned way" with strong personal connections. Sakir looks forward to being an even bigger part of this important work in his new role.

Sakir replaces outgoing Music Director Ben Makino. Makino's tenure was distinguished by ever-increasing artistic integrity and strong relationships with some of Opera Memphis' most important local partners, including the musicians of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Makino became deeply involved in the Memphis community, building bridges for Opera Memphis to organizations such as the Memphis Slim Collaboratory, PRIZM Ensemble, and Young Arts Patrons, where he served on the artistic committee. He was also a frequent guest conductor for Ballet Memphis, New Ballet Ensemble, and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. His upcoming engagements include Aida at Washington National Opera, and he returns to Memphis this fall to conduct New Ballet Ensemble's Nut Remix.


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