Our Music Director
Grammy-award winning conductor and violin virtuoso, Luis Haza is in his second year as Music Director and Conductor of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia and, for the prior 4 years, the Music Director and Conductor of the Coastal Youth Symphony. Born in Santiago, Cuba, Luis Haza has earned distinction in the United States and abroad for his roles as conductor, violinist, and human rights advocate. Mr. Haza has an extensive performing career, which included over 36 years with the National Symphony Orchestra. As solo violinist, he performed at the White House, appeared on television in the Dominican Republic, and performed the Washington premiere of Cuban composer Jose White’s Violin Concerto. Mr. Haza served as Music Director of the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras for 25 years, leading its premier ensemble, the American Youth Philharmonic, and overseeing its three other ensembles; Symphonic Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, and String Ensemble. In April 2002 Mr. Haza received the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Recording Academy (Grammy Awards) “Heroes Award”. In March 2004, the American Immigration Law Foundation presented him with the American Immigrant Achievement Award.
As conductor, he has led orchestras in North and South America, Europe and Australia. These have included the London Symphony Orchestra (including a compact disc recording for RCA Red Seal with acclaimed trumpeter Arturo Sandoval), the National Symphony Orchestra (including the highly praised premiere of Sandoval’s own trumpet concerto), the national orchestras of El Salvador, Panama, and Guatemala, the Conservatorium Symphony (Brisbane, Australia), as well as the ASAPH Ensemble (with which he produced the compact disc “A Taste for the Classics”). Mr. Haza has served as music director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center and the Prince William Symphony Orchestra. He also served as Music Director of the Virginia Chamber Orchestra, conductor for the Virginia Ballet Company, member of the Board of Governors for the Grammy Awards (NARAS), and was an Honorary Chairman of Fairfax’s “Spotlight on the Arts” Festival. From 1997 to 2001, Mr. Haza has served as Conductor for the Orchestra Program for the MasterWorks Festival for many years. As a recitalist Luis Haza’s collaboration with pianist Sara Wolfensohn has also been extensive.
As educator, Mr. Haza has worked with youth orchestras for over 25 years. He was active in the National Symphony Orchestra’s American Residencies, teaching, coaching, and presenting workshops and master classes nationwide. Mr. Haza has served on the faculty of the National Symphony Orchestra’s Youth Fellowship Program, teaching violin to gifted students. A strong supporter of music programs in public schools and arts education, Mr. Haza has frequently served as adjudicator in orchestra festivals and competitions across the United States. This role has also taken him abroad, touring Panama with the National Panamanian Youth Orchestra.
Luis Haza began his performing career in Cuba at the age of 11. By the end of the following year, he had toured the provinces of Cuba, obtained his first professional post as Assistant Concertmaster of the Lyric Theater Orchestra and made his debut as conductor in a program that included one of his own orchestral compositions. After he came to the United States in 1964, he continued his studies on full scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music, Peabody Conservatory of Music, and the Blossom Music Festival, with teachers including Daniel Majeske, Efrem Zimbalist, Robert Gerle, Eduardo Vidal Aviles, as well as coaches Mstislav Rostropovich and Henryk Szeryng.
Mr. Haza’s commitment to the causes of freedom and human rights began at an early age when, for his support of democracy, Fidel Castro executed his father without trial. Haza made his first protest while still in Cuba, rejecting scholarship offers from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union (to study with David Oistrakh in Moscow) because of his political convictions. Mr. Haza’s background led him to become a spokesperson in broadcasts to Cuba, and his performances and interviews have been broadcast in Cuba and Latin America on Univision, Telemundo, TV and Radio Marti, and La Voz de El Cid Radio. Mr. Haza directed the gala “A Celebration of Freedom” for Ambassador and human rights advocate Armando Valladares at the Kennedy Center to benefit the Valladares Foundation, a non-partisan human rights group.
For all his achievements, Mr. Haza has been the recipient of numerous honors. In January 2002, Mr. Haza led the American Youth Philharmonic at New York’s Carnegie Hall in a concert titled “The Spirit of Freedom,” dedicated to the victims and heroes of September 11, 2001. His work has been recognized by President and Mrs. Clinton, Governor of Virginia Douglas Wilder, and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the last-named honor commemorating his 10th and 15th anniversary with the American Youth Philharmonic and the Northern Virginia Youth Symphony Association. In addition, the U.S. Congress and the Architect of the Capitol, in Mr. Haza’s honor, flew an American flag over the Capitol on Paganini’s birthday. In 1996, a scholarship was created in his name for the Kennedy Center Fellowship of the Americas. In 1994 he was chosen as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics” by Hispanic Business Magazine. In May of 2005, Mr. Haza was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities by First Lady Laura Bush. He also served on several grant-awarding panel committees for the National Endowment for the Arts.
In July 2006 Mr. Haza was featured as the closing event of the Bellagio Dialogue on Migration in Bellagio, Italy. The Bellagio Dialogue on Migration was a project of the German Marshall Fund, with generous support from the Rockefeller Foundation, designed to advance and enrich the ongoing debate about migration in the United States and Europe. Mr. Haza was also featured in the July 2007 Reader’s Digest Selecciones’ feature article, “How to reach the American Dream.” In March of 2010 he was featured in Newt Gingrich and Jackie Cushman’s book “5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours.” The College of Coastal Georgia in April of 2012 presented him with the Volunteer of the Year Award.
As a violinist Maestro Haza performs on a 1707 Pietro Guarnerius di Mantua and a Jean Baptiste Vuillaume picture bow from the Napoleon collection.