Benjamin Zander started his early musical training, in his native England, with cello and composition lessons under the guidance of his father. When he was nine, Benjamin Britten, England's leading composer, took an interest in his development and invited the family to spend three summers in Aldeburgh in Suffolk where he lived. This led to a long association with Britten and lessons in theory and composition from Britten’s close associate Imogen Holst, daughter of Gustav Holst.
He left school when he was fifteen, moving to Florence at the invitation of the great Spanish cello virtuoso, Gaspar Cassadó, who became his teacher and mentor for the next five years. He completed his cello training at the State Academy in Cologne, traveling extensively with Cassadó and performing recitals and chamber music.
In 1964 Benjamin Zander completed a degree at London University, winning the University College Essay Prize, and a Harkness Commonwealth Fellowship for post-graduate work at Harvard. Boston has been his home ever since.
In 1967 Mr. Zander joined the Faculty of the New England Conservatory, where he teaches his famous Interpretation Class, conducts the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and regularly conducts the conservatory orchestras. During his thirty-one year tenure as conductor of the Youth Philharmonic he has taken the orchestra on twelve international tours, made five commercial recordings and several PBS specials. Eighteen years ago he became the Artistic Director of the joint program between NEC and Walnut Hill, a boarding high school for the Performing Arts in Natick, Mass.
In 1979, after seven years as the conductor of the Civic Symphony Orchestra of Boston, the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra was founded specially for him. In their twenty-four seasons together they have traversed a wide repertory from Bach to specially commissioned works, with an emphasis on late Romantic and early Twentieth Century repertoire, especially the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. To celebrate the orchestra’s 25th Anniversary in 2003-2004, the BPO will perform an all-Mahler season, including a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony in Carnegie Hall in February.
Over the last decade, Benjamin Zander has launched an extensive international career. He guest conducts all over the world, appearing frequently with the Philhamonia Orchestra in London, in regular subscription concerts at the Royal Festival Hall. He is in the process of recording with them a series of Beethoven and Mahler symphonies for the Telarc label, which has garnered extraordinary critical acclaim and several prestigious awards. To date, Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh symphonies, and Mahler’s symphonies 4, 5, 6, and 9 have been released, with No. 3 scheduled for September 2003. High Fidelity named his recording of Mahler 6th as the best classical recording of 2002.
In 2002 Mr. Zander made his debut with the Israel Philharmonic, and returned to conduct four performances of Mahler’s Third Symphony with the orchestra in 2003. Recently he has also conducted orchestras as distant and diverse as the Bournemouth Symphony and the Malaysian Philharmonic in Kuala Lumpur. He toured with the newly formed Youth Orchestra of the Americas to Washington, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, and appeared with the National Youth Orchestra of New Zealand in Wellington and Auckland. 2003-2004 will bring return engagements with the Israel Philharmonic, the Scottish and Irish National Orchestras, and debuts with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and the Australian Youth Orchestra.
Mr. Zander has become recognized as one of the seminal teachers of the era, expanding audiences for classical music everywhere through radio and TV appearances, pre-concert lectures and master classes. He has been featured in an hour-long profile on the BBC and on CBS’s "60 Minutes". Each of his Telarc recordings includes a full length bonus CD, vividly explaining the music for lay listeners, which, in part, explains the phenomenal commercial success of these recordings.
Benjamin Zander travels the world as a speaker to organizations about Leadership. Last summer he delivered a four-hour presentation to six thousand schoolteachers in Singapore. He has appeared three times as a keynote speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he was presented with the Crystal award for "outstanding contributions in the Arts and international relations". A best-selling book, The Art of Possibility, co-authored with his partner, leading psychotherapist Rosamund Zander, was published in 2000 by Harvard Business School Press and has been released in paperback by Penguin. It has been translated into twelve languages.
Mr. Zander was awarded the 2002 "Caring Citizen of the Humanities" Award by the International Council for Caring Communities at the United Nations.