Artistic Directors

JULIA TAI, Music Director

Praised by the Seattle Times as “poised yet passionate,” Julia Tai is one of today’s most dynamic and engaging conductors on the international stage. In November 2020, she became the first female music director in the Missoula Symphony Orchestra’s history. Her career has led to acclaimed performances and rehearsals with the American Youth Symphony, Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic (Czech Republic), Boise Philharmonic, Brandenburger Symphoniker (Germany), Estonian National Youth Symphony (Estonia), Lexington Philharmonic, New Symphony Orchestra (Bulgaria), Orquesta Filarmónica de la UNAM (Mexico), Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Charlos Chávez (Mexico), Philharmonia Northwest, and the Seattle Symphony.

Ms. Tai has established a reputation for her creative programming and community partnerships. She has increased the esteem of her orchestras by elevating its artistic output, commissioning new works by renown composers, and serving diverse communities. In 2017, in collaboration with Finlandia Foundation, she celebrated Finland’s centennial by presenting Finland 100 at Benaroya Hall, featuring three generations of Finnish composers. The concert was attended by Finland’s ambassador to the U.S. from Washington D.C. In 2018, she presented an all-Taiwanese composers’ concert again at Benaroya Hall, featuring musicians from all over the U.S., Canada, and Taiwan. Her orchestras have co-commissioned new works by PDQ Bach (Concerto for Simply Grand Piano and Orchestra), Mexican composer Osvaldo Mendoza (Three Mexican Portraits), Chinese-American composer Dorothy Chang (Gateways – Concerto for Erhu and Piano), Vivian Fung (Trumpet Concerto), Sheila Silver (Being in Life – Concerto for French horn and Alpenhorn, 5 Tibetan singing bowls, and string orchestra), and have premiered new works by Orlando Jacinto Garcia, Donald O. Johnston, Pascal Le Boeuf, Kate Soper, Andrew Waggoner, and Wang Lu.

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Ms. Tai began her violin studies at age four and piano at eight. She received her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where she was awarded “Outstanding Graduate” in 2004. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Washington. She and her husband Mathew have a daughter Natalie who also plays the piano.

This weekend's symphony was a real knockout!  The orchestra was incredible and I really really enjoy Julia Tai's conducting.  Unfortunately I'm not a musician, just a lover of music, so I don't have the vocabulary to praise more specifically.  I think Julia's inclusion of contemporary and women composers is excellent.  I enjoy the well rounded programs she is putting together and the use she made of media specifically in this last symphony.  Hooray Symphony and Julia!

E.I. Missoula, MT

Thank you so much for providing a live stream of the concert.  We are so sad that we aren’t comfortable going in person but the live stream was so appreciated! We loved the music choice that Julia made and continue to be excited about our new Director!!

P.R. and C.R. Missoula, MT

Thank YOU!   This was one of the most amazing symphonies we have attended!  The last movement of the last piece was out of this world--just loved everything about this symphony.

C.R. Missoula, MT

DEAN PETERSON, Chorale Director

Dean Peterson has been actively involved in the Montana music scene for many years. He has conducted the Missoula Symphony Chorale since 2006 and also serves as Musical Director and Conductor of the Missoula Mendelssohn Club. In 2011 he retired from his position as Director of Choirs at Hellgate High School and went on to serve as the interim Director of Choirs at the University of Montana. Prior to his years at Hellgate High School, he worked as an elementary general music teacher in the Missoula Public Schools.  In addition to his conducting duties, he is an active choral clinician, adjudicator and instructor for the University of Montana's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (MOLLI).

He received his Bachelor of Music Degrees with high honors from the University of Montana in Music Education and Piano Performance.  Later he completed his Master of Music Education degree with Kodaly emphasis from Holy Names College, Oakland, CA.

During his teaching career, Dean received the prestigious National Milken Educator award. Later, he was honored to be recognized by the National Federation of High Schools as the 2010-2011 Outstanding Music Educator for Montana and the Northwest region. In that same year, he was named Missoula Arts Educator of the Year by the Missoula Cultural Council and was also honored to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the Montana Music Educators Association. In the Fall of 2013 Dean was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Montana Choral Directors Association.  In March of 2014, he was inducted into the University of Montana Fine Arts Hall of Fame at the annual Odyssey of the Stars. 

When not engaged in music making you might find Dean on a hiking or ski trail, in his garden or out and about searching for a rare art piece or antique. 

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