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2021 Honorary Doctorate



Mr Jaap van Zweden is one of the world’s most-prominent orchestral conductors, holding top positions in the world’s major orchestras. He has been the music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra since 2012 and music director of the New York Philharmonic starting 2018.

Born in Amsterdam, Mr Jaap van Zweden began his conducting career in 1996, going on at the age of 19 to become the youngest-ever concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He remains honorary chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, where he served as chief conductor from 2005 to 2013. He was chief conductor of the Royal Flanders from 2008 to 2011, and music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra from 2008 to 2018, where he remains conductor laureate. He was named Musical America’s Conductor of the Year in 2012. In 2020, he was awarded the prestigious Concertgebouw Prize, while the Hong Kong SAR government presented him with the Silver Bauhinia Star. The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra was named Gramophone’s 2019 Orchestra of the Year under his leadership.

Mr Jaap van Zweden has been a guest conductor with leading orchestras around the world, including the Orchestre de Paris, the Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Vienna and Berlin philharmonics, and the London Symphony Orchestra.

His acclaimed recordings include the 2020 release of the world premiere of David Lang’s Prisoner of the state with the New York Philharmonic, and the 2019 release of the world premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth, continuing the New York Philharmonic’s partnership with Decca Gold. In 2018, he completed a four-year project with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra conducting the first Hong Kong performances of all four parts of Wagner’s Ring cycle. These were released on Naxos Records as individual recordings as well as a complete set. He conducted highly-praised performances of Lohengrin as well as Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Parsifal earned the prestigious Edison Award for Best Opera Recording in 2012.

In 1997, Mr Jaap van Zweden and his wife Aaltje established the Papageno Foundation, with the aim of supporting families of children with autism in the Netherlands. Over two decades, the foundation has grown into a multifaceted charity funding autism programmes and providing in-home music therapy to children through a national network of qualified music therapists. It opened the Papageno House in August 2015 as a place for young adults with autism to live, work and participate in the community. It also established a research centre for the early diagnosis and treatment of autism and for analysing the effects of music therapy on autism. The foundation plans to open a second home soon, with more in the works. It also launched the app TEAMPapageno, which allows children with autism to communicate with each other through music composition.

Mr Jaap van Zweden is a staunch supporter of the School of Music of the Academy, inspiring young musicians of the School. He has been conducting annual orchestral workshops with the Academy Symphony Orchestra, and both staff and students say they benefit from his invaluable advice and tutelage. In 2021, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the School of Music forged a partnership to found The Orchestra Academy Hong Kong with funding support from the “TrustTomorrow” of The Swire Group Charitable Trust. The Orchestra Academy is a major step forward for the School to link with the music industry. One facet of this scheme is to allow select graduates of the School to play with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra for a full season. Mr Jaap van Zweden throws his full support behind the project, part of his commitment to nurturing young musicians.