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Jonathan Hirsh

Senior Lecturer and Director of Orchestral & Choral Activities



Sage Hall 001


As director of orchestral and choral activities at Smith College since 1997, Jonathan Hirsh has conducted much of the standard orchestral, choral-orchestral, and choral repertoire. His conducting has included collaborations with dance and opera companies, leading performances of Peter and the Wolf with the Pioneer Valley and Amherst Ballet companies, and Mark Morris’ Vivaldi Gloria. For a performance at Williams College, he coordinated the music for Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes with the principal dancers of the New York City Ballet. In 2018, he was invited by Panopera to conduct La Traviata and was reengaged for performances of Il Barbiere di Siviglia in January 2020. Celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Smith College Orchestra, along with the Smith College Choirs and the University of Michigan Glee Club, presented a sold-out performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Carnegie Hall under Hirsh’s direction.

Guest engagements have taken him as far as Alaska and have included New England and Northeast Regional choirs, and the Maryland All-State Women’s Choir. The Smith College Choirs have been invited to perform four times at regional and national choral conferences and have performed under Hirsh’s direction in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and in Europe’s greatest churches and cathedrals. In October 2017, Hirsh visited Chile where he performed with the Orquesta Juveníl de Puente Alto in Santiago. At L’Universidad de La Serena, he premiered four works by Chilean composers with the Orquesta de Camara, advancing his commitment and passion for new music. 

As Music Director of the Smith College Alumnae Chorus, Hirsh has led four international tours to Sicily, Estonia and Russia, Cuba, and Slovenia. He is Artistic Director of Sing This Summer, an organization that has offered summer camps and workshops for young children, teens and adults at Amherst and Bowdoin Colleges, and at the College of New Jersey.

In recent years his research has focused on the careers of African American opera singers, the music of American composer George Walker, and on editing unpublished manuscripts by Nino Rota, the famous composer known particularly for his many film scores, including The Godfather. In October, 2023, Hirsh traveled to Bari, Italy to conduct the world premiere of his edition of Rota’s Messa di Requiem, which will be published by Schott.

All of his private conducting students have been admitted to top graduate programs including Yale University, the University of Michigan and Temple University. Among them, Arianne Abela ‘08 now serves as Director of Choirs at Amherst College; Carolyn Kuan '99 has been Music Director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra since 2011; and Elim Chan ‘09, former winner of the Donatella Flick Competition and former Dudamel Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has become one of the most sought after guest conductors in the world.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Hirsh graduated from Midwood High School and Amherst College, and received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan.


D.M.A., M.M., University of Michigan
B.A., Amherst College