Music Director & Conductor
Claire Fox Hillard brings a unique flair to the podium, establishing outstanding rapport with musicians and audiences alike. His musical mastery and energy elicits the very best from musicians, inspiring them to perform at peak ability, to which audiences respond with great enthusiasm. The Ukrainian News Service observed that “Both ingeniousness and responsiveness were noticed in Hillard’s interpretation…along with the organic combination of relaxation, strictness and consistency.” The Kansas City Star commented “…Maestro Hillard kept a firm command…we were sent away with the energy and excitement that is Mozart’s legacy.” And recently the Abilene Reporter-News said that “…Hillard and the Philharmonic brought passion and purpose to the music.”
Since his European debut in 1994 he has conducted the Karlovarsky symfonicky orchestr and Moravian Philharmonic in the Czech Republic, L’Orchestre Chapelle de Lorraine in Brussels, the Filharmonica “Banatul” and Filharmonica Paul Constantnescu in Romania, the Orquesta Sinfonica de San Pedro Sula in Honduras, the Karkov Philharmonic in Ukraine, the Gdansk Philharmonic in Poland, the National Russian Philharmonic and the Orquestra Sinfonica Caxias do Sul in Brazil. Among the orchestras he has conducted in this country are the Abilene Philharmonic, the West Shore Symphony, the North Arkansas Symphony, the Tupelo Symphony, the Flagstaff Symphony, the Cobb Symphony, the Quad-City Symphony and the Symphony of Southeast Texas.
Hillard’s programming is noted for an exciting blend of major symphonic, choral and operatic repertory including a wide variety of American compositions and the premieres of new works. He has received seven ASCAP awards for his innovative programming. He has worked directly with such composers as Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Ulysses Kay, Alvin Singleton, Steven Paulus, Ellen Taffee Zwilich, Samuel Jones and Adolphus Hailstork. Hillard has also collaborated with a wide variety of artists ranging from young classical artists such as violinist Hilary Hahn, Adam Nieman, Stephan Milenkovich, Ransom Wilson, Leon Bates, and Yakov Kassman; to the established artistry of guitarist Elliott Fisk, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and pianist Ruth Laredo; to such popular artists as Ray Charles, actresses Debbie Reynolds, fiddle player Mark O’Connor, and the Billy Taylor Trio.
Hillard received training from many notable conductors of our time including James Dixon, Leonard Slatkin, Pierre Boulez, Maurice Abravanel, Jorge Mester and John Barnett. A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hillard began piano and violin studies at an early age and made his conducting debut at the age of 18. At age 25, after earning his masters and doctoral degrees from The University of Iowa, he became one of the youngest conductors ever to be appointed the Music Directorship of a professional orchestra. He has previously served as Music Director of the St. Joseph Symphony, the Missouri Western Philharmonia, and the Meridian Symphony Orchestra.
Maestro Hillard is the recipient of the League of American Orchestra’s distinguished Helen M. Thompson Award “acknowledging his outstanding achievements as a conductor who demonstrates great career potential.” Georgia Trend Magazine has honored him as one of the “outstanding leaders in Georgia,” and the Meridian Area Council for the Arts honored Hillard with its Artist’s Achievement Award for his commitment to enriching the cultural and educational life in east central Mississippi.