Biography

Joseph Trafton is in his fourth season as Music Director of the Hagen Philharmonic Orchestra, where he conducts numerous symphony concerts and operas.  Concert highlights include Bruckner “Romantic” Symphony, Strauss Ein Heldenleben, Rachmaninoff 2nd Symphony and Symphonic Dances, Mahler 1st Symphony, Berlioz Symphonie fantastique, Sibelius 2nd Symphony, John Adams Harmonielehre, Debussy La Mer, and Brahms 4th Symphony.  A frequent guest conductor throughout Europe, he made his Czech debut in 2017 at the Ostrava Days Festival, conducting concerts as well as Miroslav Srnka’s opera “Make No Noise.”  In 2016 he made his debut in France conducting at the Festival Musica Strasbourg.  As 1st Kapellmeister at the Nationaltheater Mannheim for five years, he conducted over 300 performances encompassing an vast range of repertoire.  New productions included the world premiere of Bernhard Lang’s Der Golem, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust.  In Mannheim he also conducted numerous revivals, such as Madama Butterfly, Don Carlo, Carmen, Der Freischütz, La Nozze di Figaro, La Traviata, La Bohéme, Die Fledermaus and Turandot and many others. In addition, he has led ballet productions including Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Isadora, Othello, Rilke as well as numerous family concerts including Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, and Dukas’ The Sorceror’s Apprentice.

A composer himself and advocate of new music, he has conducted numerous world premieres, including the the Violin Concerto by Wolfram Schurig and Siegel und Idee by Patrick Frank.  For the Schwetzinger Festival he was involved in a video production and world premiere of Lang’s opera Rei:gen.  Other projects include  revivals of recent operas by Olga Neuwirth, Bernhard Lang, and Mieczyslaw Weinberg.  For ballet, he has conducted music by John Adams, Alban Berg, Philip Glass, Charles Ives, Aaron Jay Kernis, Nico Muhly, Kaija Saariaho, and Anton Webern.

At the other end of the spectrum, he has a passion for Baroque and Classical music, and studied historic performance practice with Paul O’Dette and Malcolm Bilson.  He has also collaborated with early music specialists Reinhard Goebel and Emmanuelle Haïm.

Recent guest conducting engagements include the Württemberg Philharmonic Reutlingsn, Vorpommern Philharmonic Orchestra, Baden-Baden Philharmonic Orchestra, PHACE Ensemble in Vienna, the Ostravská Banda, and operas such as Tschaikovsky’s Eugen Onegin at Theater Basel, Switzerland,Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the Staatstheater Oldenburg, and Die Lustige Witwe at the Theater Ulm.

Born in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1978, Joseph Trafton studied Composition, Conducting, and Piano at the University of Miami. In 1998 he received a scholarship to study at Vienna’s Universität für Musik. While in Vienna he was invited to conduct at the open-air festival in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, and made his European conducting debut at the age of 21 with van Dijk’s Cyrano. He returned to America to study conducting at the Eastman School of Music, receiving his Master’s degree in 2002. He has also studied at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and the Aspen Music Festival and School. In 2005 he was one of four active participants invited by Pierre Boulez to study at a summer conducting course in Lucerne, Switzerland. He also participated actively in masterclasses in Lucerne with Bernard Haitink.