Our Music Director

Michelle Merrill
Music Director and Conductor

The Hall Booth Smith Music Director and Conductor Chair

Rapidly rising conductor Michelle Merrill enters her third season as Music Director of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia, having completed four years  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 in 2015, and was  profiled by the Ford Motor Co. for their website fordbetterworld.org.

Recent engagements include the San Francisco Opera, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, West Virginia Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Orlando Philharmonic, Symphoria (Syracuse), Round Top Festival Institute, Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, Boise Philharmonic, New Music Detroit, and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, where she formerly served as Assistant Conductor before moving to Detroit.  During her four year tenure as the Associate Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, she helped plan and conduct over 30 concerts per season, including the renowned educational webcasts, which have reached over 100,000 students to date in classrooms throughout the nation. Merrill also gave pre-concert lectures, led adult music education seminars, engaged with students in and around Metro Detroit, spoke on behalf of the DSO throughout the community, and participated in “Live from Orchestra Hall”, the DSO’s free concert webcast that launched in 2011 and is now watched in more than 100 countries.  She made her classical subscription debut with the DSO in April 2016, and the following season led  the world premiere performance of Gabriela Lena Frank’s the  – Walkabout: Concerto for Orchestra.

Merrill is a proud recipient of a 2016 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award, plus the prestigious 2013 Ansbacher Conducting Fellowship, awarded by members of the Vienna Philharmonic and the American Austrian Foundation, enabling her to be in residence at the world-renowned Salzburg Festival.  In March of 2014, Ms. Merrill stepped in on short notice with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra for their performance of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony, 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.  Recent praise came from her classical debut with the DSO conducting Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony: “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, Merrill recently conducted three Joan Tower works at the Round Top Music Festival Institute in celebration of the composer’s 80th birthday, featuring soloists Carol Wincenc on flute and Brett Deubner on viola. She worked with composer Gabriela Lena Frank and soprano Jessica Rivera on Frank’s work La Centinela y la Paloma (The Keeper and the Dove), as a part of numerous community programs related to the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts. 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.

Since joining the CSG, Ms. Merrill has served as our ambassador with regular speaking engagements in the community.  She also assists in development of our SoundBites events and the in-schools Musical Mentors program.

Born in Dallas, Texas, 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, principal percussionist of the Jacksonville Symphony and the CSG, and their son, Davis.