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Taka Matsunaga

MPO Music Director

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As the recipient of the 2021 Conductor of the Year granted by the Illinois Council of Orchestras as well as the third-place winner of the 2019 and 2021 American Prize in Orchestral Conducting, Taka Matsunaga is currently serving as a Music Director of the Midwest Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also the Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Orchestras at Elmhurst University, where he conducts the University Philharmonic Orchestra.


Matsunaga came to the U.S. in 1998 to pursue his violin studies with David Taylor, Joseph Golan and Robert Chen while attending Roosevelt University and Northeastern Illinois University, where he received his master’s degree in music. 

From 1999-2001, Matsunaga was a regular member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In March 2000, he performed at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Maestro Daniel Barenboim. While playing in the Civic Orchestra, Matsunaga has played with world-renowned conductors including Neeme Jarvi, Christoph Eschenbach, Osmo Vanska, Pierre Boulez and Pinchas Zukerman, to name just a few. 


Matsunaga has studied at the National Orchestral Institute at University of Maryland as a full-scholar musician under the direction of Gerard Schwarz, a former music director of the Seattle Symphony, and Lan Shui, a conductor laureate of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Matsunaga went on to join the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, South Bend Symphony Orchestra and the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, where he served as an Assistant Concertmaster. 


As a conductor, Matsunaga made his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2018 with the Midwest Philharmonic Orchestra. He has conducted in Vienna, Salzburg, Detroit and at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center in Chicago. 


Matsunaga is a member of the College Orchestra Directors Association (CODA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and American String Teachers Association (ASTA). 


He lives with his oboist wife, Naomi, and three little children, Edward, Cecile and Felix.

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