About the Director

A man conducting a symphony

California conductor Mark Lane Swanson celebrates his twentieth season as Music Director & Conductor of the Amherst Symphony Orchestra during the 2019-2020 academic year. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, with a concurrent residence in Santa Monica, Mr. Swanson is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University (History & Economics), a former attorney holding the J.D. from the UCLA School of Law, and has previously taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco State University, and the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington. His undergraduate studies in music were pursued at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, with an emphasis in composition, and his master’s degree and doctoral coursework in instrumental conducting were completed at IU Bloomington. In addition to the Conservatory, SFSU and IU, Mr. Swanson has directed orchestras at UC Berkeley, Stanford, and UC San Francisco, and served as vocal coach/accompanist/assistant conductor at Utah Festival Opera in Logan and at the IU Opera Theater. At IU he also taught undergraduate opera workshop, the graduate elective course in instrumental conducting, and conducted the New Music Ensemble. He has served as assistant to conductors Jung-Ho Pak, Thomas Baldner, Imre Pallo, David Effron, Michael Morgan, Patrick Summers, Joseph Silverstein, Sergiu Commissiona and many others.

Since his hiring in 2001, Mr. Swanson has transformed what was a small college orchestra half comprised of hired local professionals to an orchestra ranging in size from sixty to eighty musicians--virtually all current students at Amherst College. The orchestra has performed numerous full-length operas (Carmen twice, The Marriage of Figaro, Hansel and Gretel, La Boheme) and eight full-length, fully staged musical comedies directed by A. Scott Parry (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, La Cage aux Folles, Candide, City of Angels, Cabaret, Evita, Sweeney Todd and Company).  The orchestra has toured Florida, and Northern and Southern California (performing at the Colburn School of the Performing Arts and UCLA's Schoenberg Hall in Los Angeles and at Dinkelspiel Auditorium at Stanford University).

About the ASO

Three people playing the violin
The Amherst Symphony Orchestra, Mark Lane Swanson, Music Director & Conductor, consists of anywhere from sixty to eighty Amherst College students (depending on the year and repertoire) as well as up to ten musicians from the other schools of the Five College Consortium (principally the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Hampshire College; students at Mount Holyoke and Smith are encouraged to participate in their own college orchestras).  It is perhaps the only non-conservatory liberal arts college orchestra of its size to be comprised entirely of students and to present at least six different programs per academic year.

The orchestra specializes in Western "classical" music of the classical, Romantic and early twentieth-century periods; it also performs annually with the Amherst College Choral Society (Mallorie Chernin, director), presents operas and musicals (both fully staged or in-concert), new music and world premieres, "pops" and film music, as well as annual events featuring Amherst College seniors as concerto soloists.  It aspires to perform at the level of a fine regional orchestra and offers its members the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of the finest (and often most exciting) works in the classical canon.

Applicants to Amherst College who are classical instrumentalists are encouraged to submit arts supplements in support of their application; if admitted, you are invited to become part of our extraordinary and fun ensemble!

For more information about the ASO, email director Mark Swanson at mlswanson@amherst.edu.