NYFOS Associate Artistic Director Michael Barrett started NYFOS in 1988 with his friend and colleague Steven Blier. In 1992, he co-founded the Moab Music Festival with his wife, violist Leslie Tomkins. From 1994 to 1997, he was the Director of the Tisch Center for the Arts at the 92nd Street Y in New York, and from 2003 to 2012, he was Chief Executive and General Director of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah, NY.
He has distinguished himself as a conductor with major orchestras here and abroad in the symphonic, operatic, and dance repertoire. A protégé of Leonard Bernstein, he began his long association with the renowned conductor and composer as a student in 1982. He served as Maestro Bernstein's assistant conductor from 1985–1990. He currently serves as music advisor to the Leonard Bernstein Estate.
A champion of new music, Mr. Barrett has conducted and played premieres by Bernstein, Blitzstein, Bolcom, Danielpour, Kernis, Sellars, Harrison, Takemitsu, Del Tredici, John Corigliano, Lowell Liebermann, and John Musto. He has collaborated with the directors Jerome Robbins, John Houseman, Sir Peter Hall, David Alden, Christopher Alden, and Gregory Mosher.
Mr. Barrett has recorded for Koch, TER, CRI, and Deutsche Grammophon. He has released two compact discs with the Brooklyn Philharmonic; one as soloist playing Blitzstein's Piano Concerto with Lukas Foss conducting, the other as conductor of works of Wilder and Corigliano with oboist Humbert Lucarelli. The DG recording, The Joys of Bernstein, features Mr. Barrett playing solo piano with Maestro Bernstein conducting. Other discs include Spanish Love Songs, recorded live at Caramoor with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Steven Blier, and Joseph Kaiser, Live from the Moab Music Festival, the Grammy-nominated Evidence of Things Not Seen (New World Records), Aaron Kernis: 100 Greatest Dance Hits (New Albion), On the Town (Deutsche Grammophon), Kaballah (Koch Classics) by Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie, Schumann Lieder with Lorraine Hunt and Kurt Ollmann (Koch), and Arias and Barcarolles (Koch) by Leonard Bernstein (Grammy Award).
Dedicated to music education, Mr. Barrett oversees the innovative education programs of the Moab Music Festival. He is also active in the creation of new educational programs for symphony orchestras in collaboration with Jamie Bernstein. Their programs have been performed throughout the U.S., Asia, Cuba and Europe
As a performer, he has worked with many leading arts organizations throughout the world. Recent engagements have included the Portland (Oregon) Opera, The Utah Symphony, and the Indiana University School of Music, where he returns annually. Born in Guam and raised in California, Mr. Barrett attended the University of California at Berkeley and is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he studied piano with Paul Hersh. He earned his master's degrees in conducting and piano performance.