28-year-old Yuga Cohler is an internationally renowned orchestral conductor and cultural innovator. He was recently appointed Music Director of the Ridgefield Symphony, and from 2015 to 2018 served as Music Director of the Young Musicians Foundation (YMF) Debut Orchestra. During his tenure at YMF, he came to international prominence with the creation of Yeethoven, a comparison of the works of Kanye West and Beethoven which was hailed as a work of “musical genius,” and received widespread attention from such media outlets as Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and Rolling Stone. The concert was subsequently performed to a sold-out audience at Lincoln Center.
Mr. Cohler also enjoys a close relationship with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he has appeared in concert on Japanese national television. He recently completed a sold-out international tour with them featuring the international rockstar Yoshiki, which concluded with two performances in Carnegie Hall. Mr. Cohler has additionally appeared as a guest conductor with the Juilliard and New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestras, and served as cover conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
As a recipient of the Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship, Mr. Cohler studied with New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert at the Juilliard School. He is currently among the top four candidates of the Toscanini International Conducting Competition, and will return to Italy in the fall to conduct the Filharmonica Toscanini in concert for the final rounds. Among the other accolades granted to Mr. Cohler are the Career Assistance Award from the Solti Foundation U.S., the Ansbacher Fellowship from the American Austrian Foundation, the Charles Schiff Conducting Award from the Juilliard School, and the David McCord Prize for Artistic Excellence from Harvard University. He has been awarded fellowships to some of the most prestigious musical institutions in the country, including the Aspen Music Festival and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, and has additionally studied at the Tanglewood Music Center.
A skilled interpreter of modern music, Mr. Cohler was selected by composer John Adams to perform a program of modern American orchestral music at Carnegie Hall, where the New York Times lauded his “strong rendition” of Elliott Carter’s Double Concerto. Currently a Director of the Asia / America New Music Institute, Mr. Cohler has performed world premieres at the Beijing Modern Music Festival, the Asian Composer’s League in Seoul, the Okinawa University for the Arts, and the Peabody Essex Museum.
Mr. Cohler is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College, where he studied computer science. His senior thesis, Optimal Envy-Free Cake-Cutting, has been cited by over 50 articles in the academic literature. As an advocate for the integration of art music into mainstream culture, Mr. Cohler runs State of Art, a blog about American music without preconceptions of genre or quality.