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Meet Etienne Abelin

Music Director/Symphony Orchestra

Swiss conductor Etienne Abelin has been described as a "post-classical pioneer" in the BBC Music Magazine and an "icon of new ways in classical music" by the Musica Viva Magazine Brazil. His gripping, emotionally charged performances have been hailed as "always unforgettably fine" by eminent conducting mentor Jorma Panula.

Abelin won the exceptional privilege of being a musical collaborator for 18 years with classical music legend conductor Claudio Abbado, who has been described as one of the three greatest conductors of all time by BBC Music Magazine. As such, Etienne was handpicked by Mr. Abbado to be a founding member of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and the Orchestra Mozart Bologna, where he was the Principal Second Violin for seven years. With these orchestras, he performed in the world's most prestigious concert halls and recorded for labels such as Deutsche Grammophon and Harmonia Mundi.

As a conductor, he has performed with orchestras throughout Europe, including the Beethoven Orchester Bonn, the Musikkollegium Winterthur, the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris and the Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa in venues such as the Royal Festival Hall London, Teatro alla Scala Milano, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Teatro Sao Carlos Lisbon, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens and Beethovenfest Bonn. His enthusiasm for new, genre-crossing music led him to conduct world premieres by Gabriel Prokofiev and William Brittelle as well as Swiss premieres of works by Nico Muhly, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Fabrizio Cassol, and others. Etienne has made headlines in Europe and the United States for co-founding the Ynight-Classical Music in Clubs Series and the Apples & Olives Indie Classical Festival.

A gifted communicator, Etienne Abelin has presented on multiple occasions as a TEDx speaker and performer and has hosted numerous concerts of orchestras such as the Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa and the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra in Lisbon, Istanbul, Milano and Athens with audiences up to 4500. He is a frequent contributor on Swiss National radio and television on a wide range of topics, from genre-crossing music to new concert formats, conductors, and also blind comparison of recordings, a fun feature of Swiss Radio.

Abelin's passion for entrepreneurship, technology, education and social change through music have, over the years, led him to co-found and co-direct the Pan-EuropeanSistema Europe Youth Orchestra, the Swiss El Sistema-inspired program Superar Suisse, the Apples&Olives Indie Classical Festival Zurich, the Ynight-Classical in Club series and most recently Music:Eyes - See what you Hear, a music tech-ed platform based on music animation. Recent Music:Eyes projects include collaborations with such organizations as the Berlin Philharmonic, the European Union Youth Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Columbia University and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen.

Watch Etienne's talk at TEDx Amsterdam

As an educator, he developed a "7 Dimensions of Musical Excellence" framework for the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra. With his chamber music ensembles BachSpace - Bach&Electronics and Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile Extended - Ritual Groove Music, Abelin has released albums on the Neue Meister and ECM labels. In 2021 he enjoyed the distinction of being featured as one of five visionary conductors in the Karajan Foundation's documentary series Conducting the Future  alongside Marin Alsop, Paavo Järvi, Lars Vogt, and Miguel Perez Iñesta.

Born in Bern, Switzerland, Abelin studied the violin at the Musik-Akademie Basel, Oberlin College and Indiana University, executive business administration at the University of St. Gallen and conducting with teachers such as Jorma Panula, Neil Varon, Larry Rachleff, Johannes Schläfli, James Allen Anderson and Don Schleicher at the ZhdK Zurich, the University of Delaware and Eastman School of Music where he's currently on leave of absence from his doctoral studies in conducting.

Etienne Abelin resides in the Capital Region of New York, and outside of music pursues his passion for coffee and gelato all over the world. He particularly enjoys light Ethiopian single origin brews and Stefino Gelato from Bologna, Italy.