Our Music Director

Michelle Merrill
Music Director and Conductor



Rapidly rising conductor Michelle Merrill is the newly appointed Music Director of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia. Merrill previously served as the Associate Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra where she also carried the title of Phillip and Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador. A passionate and dynamic artist, Ms. Merrill was named as one of Hour Detroit Magazine’s 3 Cultural Organization Leaders to Watch, and was recently profiled by the Ford Motor Co. for their website fordbetterworld.org. She is also a recipient of a 2016 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award.

Recent and upcoming engagements include the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Louisiana Philharmonic, Orlando Philharmonic, Symphoria (Syracuse), Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, Boise Philharmonic, New Music Detroit, and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, where she formerly served as Assistant Conductor before coming to Detroit.

In March of 2014, Ms. Merrill stepped in on short notice with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra for their performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, which music critic Scott Cantrell of the Dallas Morning News described as “stunning” and later named to his list of Top Ten Classical Performances of 2014. She was awarded in 2013 the prestigious Ansbacher Conducting Fellowship by members of the Vienna Philharmonic and the American Austrian Foundation, which enabled her to be in residence at the world-renowned Salzburg Festival. Recent praise came from her classical debut with the DSO conducting Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6: “from the off this was a heavenly ‘Pastoral’…Merrill (conducting from memory) certainly has an ear for focused inner parts, and her meaningful flexibility was welcome…There was something reassuringly old-world about this performance (reminding of but not emulating such views of the music as Böhm, Boult and Klemperer) yet with a New World bloom that trod freshly-mown grass and also looked skywards…”

A strong advocate of new music, Ms. Merrill recently conducted the world-premiere performance of Gabriela Lena Frank’s “Walkabout: Concerto for Orchestra” with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In June 2015, she made her debut at the St. Augustine Music Festival conducting the world-premiere performance of Piotr Szewcyzk’s “St. Augustine Suite” which was written in honor of that city’s 450th anniversary. The highly praised performance was later featured nationwide on NPR’s “Performance Today”. Additionally, her work in the 2011/12 season with Voices of Change, Dallas’s professional contemporary music ensemble, was part of a program later named as one of Dallas Morning News critic Scott Cantrell’s Top Ten Classical Performances of 2011.

Born in Dallas, TX, Ms. Merrill studied conducting with Dr. Paul C. Phillips at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, where she holds a Master of Music Degree in conducting and a Bachelor of Music in performance. Apart from music, she loves cooking, running, hiking, and spending time with her husband, Steve Merrill, who serves as the principal percussionist of the Jacksonville Symphony, and their infant son, Davis.

Music Director and Conductor Emeritus            Maestro Luis Haza