Neil Birnbaum’s life’s work has been committed to producing and presenting performances at the highest attainable artistic level. Originally from New York, he graduated from the School of Performing Arts and from Manhattan School of Music with a Bachelor of Music. Neil enjoyed a distinguished career as Principal Trumpet of the Honolulu Symphony and a member of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. During his tenure, he was fortunate to have regularly worked under conducting giants such as Thomas Schippers, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, Maurice Abravanel, Erich Leinsdorf, Fausto Cleva, Karl Böhm, Leopold Ludwig and James Levine.
Jumping to the dark side in 1995, Neil embarked on a career in orchestra management, serving as executive of Riverside Philharmonic, Long Island Philharmonic and Florida Philharmonic before joining Northwest Sinfonietta (Seattle) in 2007. Under Neil’s leadership, Northwest Sinfonietta developed a reputation for innovation and excellence and has matured into a nationally recognized chamber orchestra.
He instituted a new forward-looking Artistic Partner leadership model, only the fifth orchestra in the world to do so. Pioneered by Academy of St Martin in the Fields and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, this model, rather than depending on a permanent resident conductor, brings a rotating set of internationally acclaimed conductors to direct the concerts. Thus, the musicians are central to the orchestra’s artistic leadership, vesting them with control over their artistic future and responsibility for the quality of the performances.
The Sinfonietta’s position was firmly established in the cultural vanguard when the ensemble toured Cuba in both 2012 and 2013, only the second US orchestra to do so since the 1959 revolution. As a result of these achievements, Northwest Sinfonietta was the recipient of the 2015 Governor’s Arts and Heritage Award, and according to Governor Christine Gregoire, “Washington State’s cultural ambassador.”
Intoxicated by the creativity and artistry of Cuba’s arts scene, combined with the indomitable spirit of the Cuban people, Neil co-founded Cuba Rhythm and Views in 2014. Since then, he has curated numerous cultural exchanges for organizations such as Boulder Philharmonic, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Bremerton Symphony, Fayetteville (NC) Symphony, Northwest Sinfonietta (Seattle), Lakeshore Music (Tempe, AZ), Puerto Rico Symphony, Jazz Arts Group (Columbus, OH) among others. CR&V regularly produces high-level performances in Cuba with such organizations as Orquesta Cámara de La Habana, Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba and Cuarteto Aldo López-Gavilán.