Artistic Director and Youth Symphony Conductor
After joining EYSO as Artistic Director in 1998, Randal Swiggum has helped raise the profile of EYSO as one of the premier regional youth orchestras in the country. Under his tenure, EYSO has more than tripled in size, drawing students from a wide geographical range of over sixty communities in Illinois and Wisconsin, with five orchestras, a brass choir, two percussion ensembles, a vibrant Chamber Music Institute and performances at Ravinia, on NPR’s From the Top, and with superstars Midori and Yo-Yo Ma, as well as headlining the Aberdeen International Festival in Scotland. A frequent guest conductor of orchestral and choral festivals, he recently conducted the Scottish National Youth Symphony in Glasgow, the APAC Festival Orchestra in Seoul, Korea, the first ever Pennsylvania ACDA/PMEA All-State Junior High Choir, the New York City InterSchool Festival, the Singapore American Schools Music Festival, the MENC All-Northwest Honor Choir in Portland, and American Mennonite Schools Orchestra Festival, the Northern Arizona Honors Orchestra, and both the Wisconsin Middle Level Honors Choir and Orchestra. In recent seasons, he conducted both the Illinois and Georgia All-State Orchestras.
Swiggum has also served as Education Conductor for the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. His acclaimed young people’s concerts with the ESO have prompted invitations to create and conduct similar concerts in Scotland, with the Boise Philharmonic, and The Florida Orchestra where his original concerts such as “Beethoven Superhero” and “The Amazing Technicolor Orchestra” have introduced thousands of young people to the wonder of symphonic music. In 2007, he made his subscription concert debut with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and “The Mambo Kings.” In 2008 Swiggum was recognized by the Illinois Council of Orchestras with a Conductor of the Year award.
A passionate advocate for a richer learning experience in choir, band, and orchestra, Swiggum has served as Chair of the Wisconsin CMP (Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance) Project, now in its 38th year. A frequent presenter at MENC, ASTA, and ACDA conferences, he has addressed the Pennsylvania MENC on “The Art of Rehearsing,” as well as the Maryland MENC, the ACDA North Central Division in Des Moines and Eastern Division in Hartford, CT, the Texas Orchestra Directors Association, and national conventions of the MENC in Phoenix and Kansas City. He has conducted successful performance tours to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Scotland, and throughout the U.S. His choirs performed throughout Italy under the auspices of UNESCO, in Brazil as guests of the city of Rio de Janeiro and Intercultura Brasil, and with the Icelandic National Symphony in Reykjavik under the direction of Lukas Foss. He conducted the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra in Prague, Brno, Bratislava, Budapest, and Vienna. In 2012, he led the EYSO Youth Symphony in an innovative Civil War tour which combined performances and travel throughout the South and East with in depth study of some of the “big ideas” of this significant American historical event.
Well known to Wisconsin theatre audiences as a conductor of opera and musical theatre, he has music directed over thirty stage works including the 1991 premiere of the Theatre X opera, Liberace. He created the music for celebrated director Eric Simonsen’s new production of Moby Dick for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, named by TIME magazine as one of the 10 Best Theatrical Productions of 2002.
As a writer, Swiggum has served as music critic for the Milwaukee Journal, as author of the book Strategies for Teaching, published by MENC (1998), and as a co-author of Shaping Sound Musicians (GIA, 2003). He has served on the League of American Orchestra’s Board of Directors-Youth Orchestra Division. He was Artistic Director of the Madison Children’s Choir from 1996-2000, and currently conducts the Madison Boychoir’s top two choirs, Britten and Holst. He has taught at Whitefish Bay High School (Milwaukee), and at the University of Wisconsin and Lawrence University. His degrees are in music education (B.M.) and orchestral conducting (M.M.) and he is currently a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at the University of Wisconsin and lives in Madison. Besides travel, biking, reading, and trying new foods, he likes to spend time pondering just about anything.