Swensen, Joseph, American conductor, violinist, and composer; b. N.Y., Aug. 4, 1960. His parents were musicians, and at a very young age he began piano lessons with his mother; at age 5 he took up the violin, and later the viola, clarinet, and tuba. When he was 7 he entered the Juilliard School in N.Y. on a piano scholarship, but at 10 enrolled in the violin class of DeLay, remaining her student until 1982. He also received instruction in conducting from Berglund, Foster, Mester, and Mueller, and in composition from Diamond and Persichetti. After completing his studies with DeLay, he pursued a career as a violin virtuoso, appearing as a soloist with leading orchs. in North America and Europe. He also appeared as a recitalist and chamber music player. Although he first appeared as a conductor at age 15, it was not until much later that he pursued conducting as a career. In 1991 he abandoned his violin career to devote himself fully to conducting. In 1996 he became principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orch. in Glasgow, which he led on its first tour of the U.S. in1999. His most important composition is Ghazal for Cello, 5 Women’s Voices, and Orch. (1992); he also orchestrated Mahler’s Piano Quartet.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire