Jindong Cai, Conductor
Over 30 years in the United States, Jindong Cai has established himself as a successful conductor, devoted music educator, and respected scholar of Western classical music in China. He has joined the Stanford University faculty in 2004 and served as Director of Orchestral Studies for 12 years. He is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Stanford Pan-Asian Music Festival – which is dedicated to promoting an understanding and appreciation of music in contemporary Asia. Maestro Cai is a three-time recipient of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, and has received “Asian Hero” award, given by the California State Legislature in 2010.
Born in Beijing, Cai received his early musical training in China, where he learned to play violin and piano. He came to the United States for his graduate studies at the New England Conservatory and the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. He was selected to study with famed conductor Leonard Bernstein at the Tanglewood Music Center in 1989, and won the Conducting Fellowship Award at the Aspen Music Festival in 1990 and 1992.
Maestro Cai started his conducting career with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra where he was an assistant conductor. He has conducted many American orchestras including the Seattle Symphony, the Arkansas Symphony, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and the Symphony Silicon Valley, among others. Cai has also conducted in South America, Asia, and Europe. He maintains strong ties to his homeland and has conducted most of the top orchestras in China including the China National Orchestra, China National Broadcasting Symphony, the National Opera and Ballet Theater of China, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, the Shanghai Symphony and the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestras, the Guangzhou Symphony, the Tianjin Symphony, the Henan Symphony, the Wuhan Orchestra, the Sichuan Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Harbin Symphony. Maestro Cai also has served as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra and led the orchestra’s first tour to the US in 2015 and to Canada in 2016.
Maestro Cai has received much critical acclaim for his opera performances. In 1992, his operatic conducting debut took place at Lincoln Center’s Mozart Bicentennial Festival in New York, when he appeared as a last minute substitute for his mentor Gerhard Samuel in the world premiere of a new production of ZAIDE. The New York Times described the performance as “one of the more compelling theatrical experiences so far offered in the festival.” He has since conducted DON GIOVANNI, DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE, LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, LA BOHÈME, LA RONDINE, MADAMA BUTTERFLY, CARMEN, IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, LA VIDA BREVE, DIE FLEDERMAUS, CENDRILLON, THE MERRY WIDOW, and AIDA. Since 2012, he has visited Mongolia a dozen times as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Mongolia State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet, conducting opera and ballet performances and giving lectures and master classes in universities and music schools; he also led the theater’s historical first tour to China in 2013.
As a scholar and expert on music in China, he is frequently interviewed by news media around the world including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and NPR. Together with his wife Sheila Melvin, Mr. Cai has co-authored the book Rhapsody in Red: How Western Classical Music Became Chinese. Their new book, Beethoven in China, How the Great Composer Became an Icon in the People’s Republic, was published by Penguin Books in September 2015.