Mark Lane Swanson (Music Director & Conductor, 2001-present) 

California conductor MARK LANE SWANSON celebrates his nineteenth 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, has conducted operas at Asheville Lyric Opera and The Ohio State University School of Music, 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 nine 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, Company, Into the Woods ).  Mr. Swanson has also music directed Five College Opera (Street Scene), Donny Johns at UMass Amherst (an original musical developed by theater department faculty), and conducts annual productions of the UMass Opera Theater (Hansel und Gretel; Pirates of Penzance; Dido and Aeneas; L'enfant et les sortileges).  The orchestra has toured Florida, and Northern and Southern California (performing at the Colburn School of the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, Schoenberg Hall at UCLA, Symphony Space in New York City, and at Dinkelspiel Auditorium at Stanford University). 

Past Directors

Assistant Directors of Instrumental Music 2001-2011

  • ERIC WUBBELS '01, Ph.D in Music (Columbia); composer & co-director of Wet Ink (2001-2002)
  • JACOB COOPER '02, D.M.A. (Yale; Associate Professor of Music, West Chester U,) (2002-2003)
  • JOHN R. DOWNEY, JR.  M.D., M.P.H. '03 (Stanford/Berkeley; radiologist, Kaiser Permanente (2003-2004)
  • MELODY KO '04 (insurance execeutive) (2004-2005)
  • ROB LANE '05, M.A. (Indiana; music teacher, Dawson School, Colorado) (2005-2006)
  • HOLLY MYERS '05, Ph.D. (2006-2007)
  • TIMOTHY CHENG '07, M.D. (Columbia; anesthesiologist, Seattle Children's Hospital) (2007-2008)
  • DAVID WONG '08 (violinist & teacher in Columbus, Ohio; popular YouTube "cover" artist) (2008-2009)
  • SCOTT MARCH SMITH '09 (Ph.D. candidate, Harvard School of Design) (2009-2010)
  • HANA KOMMEL '10, J.D. (Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley; California attorney) (2010-2011)
  • BENJAMIN COHEN '11 (Vice-President of Booking & Tours, Cadenza Artists, L.A.) (2011-2012)
  • IOANIDA COSTACHE '12 (Ph.D candidate in ethnomusicology, Stanford) (2012-2013)
  • ROBERT FLYNN '13 (Department Administrator, Questrom School of Business [Boston U.]) (2013-2014)
  • BENJAMIN MULLER '14 (M.M. NYU in film scoring; music publishing) (2014-2015)
  • ALBERT YU '15 (MBA candidate, Booth School of Business, U.Chicago) (2015-2016)
  • STUART McKENZIE '16 (teacher & soccer coach) (2016-2017)
  • JAMIE SANDEL '17 (Managing Director, CapitalBop [D.C. non-profit promoting & presenting jazz] (2017-2018)
  • MINATO SAKAMOTO '18 (PhD student in composition, Duke University) (2018-2019)
  • KATIANNA NARDONE '19 (2019-2020)

Mr. Swanson would like to acknowledge his deep appreciation to all of the generous, hard-working and brilliant assistant directors with whom he has had the privilege of collaborating during his fifteen years at Amherst.  Each has made an enormous contribution to the management and artistic success of the ASO, and he cannot thank them enough.