Kyle Wiley Pickett has established himself as a triple-threat music director: a talented and visionary musician who has earned the respect of players, soloists, boards, and audiences, a charismatic cultural leader in the communities he serves, and an ambitious fund-raiser with an impressive track record of orchestra building.
In 2013, Kyle Wiley Pickett won two conductor searches in a row when he was selected as the new Music Director and Conductor for both the Topeka Symphony Orchestra (KS) and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MO). Since taking these two jobs, Pickett has led both orchestras in unprecedented growth: The SSO has broken its single ticket sales record every year for the last four years, and the TSO is in its second year in a row running a budget surplus. Pickett works extensively with marketing and outreach in both orchestras to develop creative and eye-catching marketing campaigns and season programming designed to raise the profile of the orchestras in the communities and attract new audiences to the concerts. From more conventional approaches like Rotary and TED Talks to television commercials in which Pickett waterskis, scuba dives, and scales the local climbing wall in his tuxedo, Pickett is always seeking to connect his community and the orchestra and to make sure the orchestra delivers outstanding and exciting concerts for its audiences.
Pickett’s primary goal is always to create concerts that challenge and excite the musicians and entertain the audience. His classical concerts feature the great masterworks and carefully-selected exciting newer works that expand the scope of the traditional repertoire. For his pops concerts, Pickett has collaborated with directors and writers to create customized evenings of music and story-telling, such as incorporating local veterans’ stories into an evening of music and remembrance, creating a film set to Copland’s “Our Town” featuring photography by local fourth graders, and using actors to host the concerts and provide an entertaining narrative to the music. For the annual concert for local school children, he has started using young performers from the local educational theatre programs as his narrators in order to better connect with young audiences, and it has been enormously popular with students and teachers.
Following his doctoral studies at the Peabody Conservatory with the renowned Maestro Frederik Prausnitz, Pickett was appointed Music Director of both the Redding and Chico Symphonies in northern California. Within a year of these appointments, he worked in conjunction with the faculty and administration of California State University, Chico, and members of the both communities to merge the two orchestras into the North State Symphony, creating a single professional orchestra that bridged two communities and ensured the future of symphonic music in the region. In its first year, the North State Symphony played 8 performances of 4 concert sets in 2 cities. By its 10th anniversary in 2011-12, the North State Symphony had grown to 23 performances of 10 concert sets in 6 cities. During its first decade, the North State Symphony’s budget multiplied fivefold from $100,000 to a more than half a million dollars.
Pickett is a very popular public speaker and dedicated to raising the profile of the arts in the communities he serves. He was selected by the “Springfield Business Journal” as one of the “12 People You Need to Know in Springfield” in 2014 and in 2015 and 2017 was the featured arts panelist at the Springfield Arts Council’s Legislative Session. In his first season with the Topeka Symphony he was invited to play flute at the inauguration of the new North Topeka (NOTO) Arts Center. He is a frequent speaker at all the service organizations in his communities, is an active member of Rotary International, and was regularly invited by the Chancellor of the University of Alaska, SE to speak at their lecture series. He has been invited to perform and speak at Classics for Kids fundraisers to purchase instruments for schoolchildren, and he was a featured speaker at the inaugural TEDx Redding Conference, where he addressed the importance of live music in modern society. In June of 2013, he shared the podium with John Frohnmeyer, former head of the National Endowment of the Arts, at an evening in Redding celebrating the accomplishments of the North State Symphony.
Pickett has introduced his audiences to many new works for the orchestral repertoire, carefully selecting pieces that will entertain his audiences while also educating his communities about each new work he has performed. Pickett has given West Coast, Alaska, Kansas, Missouri, Mexico, and world premiere performances of new works by Lowell Lieberman, Ricardo Lorenz, Joan Tower, Joseph Schwantner, David Colson, and Cory Cullinan. He has worked with many renowned guest artists, including award-winning pianists Jon Nakamatsu, Brian Ganz, Spencer Myer, and all the medalists of the 2013 Van Cliburn Competition, clarinetist Jon Manasse, violinists Chee-Yun and Giora Schmidt, and percussionist Ricardo Gallardo. He has also conducted multiple symphony pops programs with the award-winning Motown group, Spectrum, as well as performances with stars of Broadway and pop star Amy Grant.
Pickett has been a frequent guest conductor with the Montana Ballet Company and Kansas Ballet Academy. Other guest conducting engagements include the Joplin District Youth Orchestra, City of Prague Philharmonic, Bozeman Symphony Orchestra (MT), York Symphony (PA), Santa Rosa Symphony (CA), Rogue Valley Symphony (OR), Guanajuato Symphony (Mexico), University of Delaware Symphony (DE), Topeka Symphony, and Springfield Symphony. Pickett conducts musical theatre and opera, as well, including performances of Sweeney Todd, Oklahoma!, Little Shop of Horrors, The Music Man, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, L’Enfant et les Sortilege, Little Night Music, South Pacific, Jesus Christ Superstar, Carmen, and many others.
A native of Los Gatos, California, Kyle Pickett holds a Bachelor’s degree in music from Stanford University and a Master’s degree in choral conducting from the California State University, Chico, where he studied with William Ramsey. His Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in orchestral conducting was conferred by the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore under the direction of Frederik Prausnitz. Pickett is also an accomplished flutist whose teachers include Frances Blaisdell and Robert Willoughby. He lives in Missouri with his wife and two young boys.