Originally from Germany Mickelthwate was appointed music director of the Bear Valley Music Festival in 2022. In addition, he serves as Music Director of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and Music Director Emeritus of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in Canada.
Born and raised in Frankfurt Germany to a musical family, Alexander received his degree from the Peabody Institute of Music, where he was a student and friend of the festival’s late beloved Music Director, Michael Morgan. He often says Michael was “one of the few composers [he] could call in the middle of the night with a burning question about music”. Mickelthwate also studied conducting under Fredric Prausnitz and Gustav Meier as well as with Seiji Ozawa, Andre Previn, Daniel Barenboim and Robert Spano at Tanglewood. Following his tenure as Assistant Conductor with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which he completed in 2004, Alexander was Associate Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for three years, under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Beginning his fifth season as Music Director of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Alexander Mickelthwate’s exciting musical programming has created a buzz across the city, drawing people from all walks of life to the concert hall. Under his leadership, the organization has expanded its artistic horizons, increased the number of onstage and city-wide collaborations, commissioned works commemorating significant events and anniversaries, and is currently completing its first-ever recording project with the international Naxos label, with violin soloist Noah Baldly Bendix, concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Since the beginning of his tenure at OCK Phil, Mickelthwate’s programming has been creating an exciting blend of traditional works and discoveries of unknown orchestral gems.He started commissioning new works to commemorate and celebrate major Oklahoma events and anniversaries. Two years ago the OKCPhil gave the world premiere of “Of Thee I Sing” by Jonathan Leshnoff, in observance of the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. This coming season will see a new commission by Hanibal Lokumbe, “Trials, Tears, Transcendence: The Journey of Clara Luper,” for the commemoration of the 100th birthday of Oklahoma City’s civil rights icon, Clara Luper.
In addition to mainstream innovations, Mickelthwate has nurtured a whole new relationship with the OCK Phil and the Native American community. Besides performing works by Chickasaw composer Jerod Tate, he commissioned a new work: “American Indian Medley” with original music by pow-wow drummer John Hamilton and native flute player Tim Nevaquaya. Through his leadership, the OKCPhil was invited to perform twice at the opening of the First Americans Museum in September 2021, and in May 2022 the orchestra performed its first concert in Ada, Oklahoma, with Chickasaw leadership in attendance.
Under Mickelthwate’s leadership, the Philharmonic deeply enriched its mission to connect to many other arts and cultural organizations in the city and state, expanding its summer concerts in Scissortail Park, streaming concerts to the Oklahoma prison system, performing for the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, Collaborating with El Sistema Oklahoma, performing run-outs to Weatherford and Shawnee, and starting a free noon chamber series in downtown Oklahoma City. In addition, he created a recording project with rap artist Jabee William, and the OKCPhil and performed for the Jewish Federations 75th anniversary Yom HaShoah.
A trailblazer by nature, Mickelthwate also played a pivotal role in the rejuvenation and turnaround of the Winnipeg Symphony during his 12-year tenure there, which culminated in a highly-successful and critically-acclaimed performance at Carnegie Hall in May 2014. The New York Times noted the performance was “conducted expertly”, and the New York Classical Review stated: “Under music director Alexander Mickelthwate, they play with excellent intonation and such a fine overall blend and balance of sound that, on their own terms, they may be the best orchestra to appear in the week’s worth of concerts.”
Deeply rooted in his German heritage, Norman Lebrecht wrote about Mickelthwate’s interpretation of Mahler’s 10th Symphony with the Winnipeg Symphony: “Both Mahler 10 performances were intense and engaging. Every twist and turn in the score was fresh and surprising to my ears.”
Mickelthwate’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 prompted the pianist Anton Kuerti to write a letter to the newspaper saying, “I would like to call attention to the stunning performance heard after the intermission. To play Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 with the passion, profundity, emotional intensity, subtlety and degree of perfection achieved by conductor Alexander Mickelthwate and the Winnipeg Symphony can only be called miraculous.”
In North America Alexander has guest conducted the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Houston Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Saint Luke’s, Milwaukee Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic and Toronto Symphony, among others.
His European debut was with the Hamburg Symphony. He also conducted for the BBC London, Stuttgart Radio Orchestra, Royal Scottish, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and NDR Hannover. Other notable performances include the Sao Paulo Symphony and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Venezuela. He made his Australia debut with the Adelaide Symphony and the Tasmania Orchestra where he recorded the Mozart piano concerti Nos. 7 and 10 with the Silber Garburg Duo.
Alexander Mickelthwate has worked several times with Dame Evelyn Glennie conducting the world premiere of two new percussion concerti by Vincent Ho. He also worked with Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Yuja Wang, Dawn Upshaw, Plácido Domingo, Ben Heppner, Horatio Gutiérrez, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Sarah Chang, among many others, and he worked very closely with a wide range of composers including Phil Glass, Steve Reich, Sofia Gubaidulina, Kaija Saariaho, John Adams, John Luther Adams and Mason Bates.
After guest conducting the Simon Bolivar Orchestra and experiencing the life-changing power of the El Sistema program in Venezuela for underprivileged children, Alexander played an instrumental part in creating Sistema Winnipeg.
Alexander has conducted for President Jimmy Carter and the Queen of England, and he received the Queen Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Key to the City of Winnipeg.
He lives with his fashion designer wife Abigail Mickelthwate and two sons in Oklahoma City.