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

California conductor MARK LANE SWANSON celebrates his eighteenth season as Music Director & Conductor of the AMHERST SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA during the 2018-2019 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 (Columbia, Ph.D. Music) (academic year 2001-2002)
  • JACOB COOPER '02 (Yale, M.M.A. Music) (academic year 2002-2003)
  • JOHN R. DOWNEY, JR. '03 (Stanford, M.D.) (academic year 2003-2004)
  • MELODY KO '04 (insurance execeutive) academic year 2004-2005)
  • ROB LANE '05 (Indiana University at Bloomington, M.A. Music Education) (academic year 2005-2006)
  • HOLLY MYERS '05 (University of Virginia, Ph.D. candidate) (academic year 2006-2007)
  • TIMOTHY CHENG '07 (Columbia University, M.D. candidate) (academic year 2007-2008)
  • DAVID WONG '08 (popular YouTube professional violinist) (academic year 2008-2009)
  • SCOTT MARCH SMITH '09 (M.A. candidate in Architecture, Harvard) (academic year 2009-2010)
  • HANA KOMMEL '10 (J.D. candidate, UC Berkeley) (academic year 2010-2011)
  • BENJAMIN COHEN '11 (Classical music agent, Cadenza Artists, Los Angeles) (academic year 2011-2012)
  • IOANIDA COSTACHE '12 (Ph.D candidate in ethnomusicology, Stanford) (academic year 2012-2013)
  • ROBERT FLYNN '13 (Performance Studies Coordinator, BU School of the Arts) (academic year 2013-2014)
  • BENJAMIN MULLER '14 (M.M. candidate in film scoring, NYU) (academic year 2014-2015)
  • ALBERT YU '15 (software professional, MBA applicant) (academic year 2015-2016)
  • STUART McKENZIE '16 (academic year 2016-2017)
  • JAMIE SANDEL '17 (Managing Director, CapitalBop [D.C. non-profit promoting & presenting jazz] (2017-2018)

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.