Dr. Emily Isaacson is known for forging a magnetic rapport with audiences and musicians alike. Considered a leader in arts entrepreneurship, in 2018 she was named Artist of the Year by the Maine Arts Commission, one of the 50 Mainers Leading the State by Maine Magazine, the face of Women’s Work by Maine Women Magazine, and third in The American Prize for Conducting.
Isaacson is the Artistic Director of the Oratorio Chorale and Maine Chamber Ensemble, a symphonic chorus and professional orchestra, and founder and Artistic Director of the Portland Bach Experience, a series of festivals bringing classical music into the modern world through concerts in familiar and progressive formats. In 2019 she leads the Handel and Haydn Society Community Youth Collaboration. Previously, Isaacson served as the the Director of Choral Activities at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Equally at home in orchestral and choral conducting, chamber and large ensembles, and with early to contemporary music, Isaacson’s performances have been heralded as “one of the most moving musical events of the decade” (Portland Press Herald), “little short of phenomenal” (Maine Classical Beat), and “not just music...the full panoply of human creative endeavor” (Wiscasset Newspaper).
A strong advocate of new music, in 2008 Isaacson helped to launch Roomful of Teeth, a GRAMMY-winning vocal ensemble which received the 2014 GRAMMY for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, and whose Partita for 8 Voices was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music.
A St. Andrews Society Scholar, Isaacson holds a bachelors in english from Williams College; a masters degree in musicology from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland; a masters degree in conducting from the University of Oregon; and a doctorate from the University of Illinois. Her dissertation, “The Binding of Isaac: Comparative Musical Perspectives on Conflict and Faith in the Age of Modernity,” focuses on the music of Israeli composers Aharon Harlap and Menachem Zur and American composer Steve Reich, as well as Akedah compositions by Carissimi, Charpentier, Britten and Stravisnky and visual art by Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and George Segal. Additional research projects have brought her to Cuba, Sweden, Estonia, and Italy.
Committed to bringing music education into underserved communities, Isaacson started the music department for the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools in Washington, D.C. in 2005. In 2014 she helped to launch the Snow Pond Community Music School in central Maine. Isaacson has taught music composition in the Boston public schools through VSA Massachusetts and conducted through Boston City Singers. She now serves as a guest conductor and clinician at choral festivals through New England.
Isaacson lives in Portland, ME, with her husband, five-year old daughter and two-year old son.
Read a profile of Emily in Old Port Magazine
Read a profile of Emily in Maine Magazine’s 50 Mainers Leading the State
Listen to an interview with Emily on Love Maine Radio
Listen to Emily describe the Portland Experience on Maine Public Radio
Listen to Emily describe the Concert Experience on Cultural Conversations