Paul Anthony McRae has conducted many of the world’s finest orchestras including engagements with the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Philharmonia Hungarica, New World Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic, Rousse Symphony, Shanghai Symphony and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and Pacific Chorale among others. Maestro McRae’s five-part video series entitled “Discovering the Orchestra” with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, was awarded the “Editor’s Choice Award” by the American Library Association as the finest music education series in the United States. The series, featuring McRae as host, narrator and conductor, appears in more than 8,000 schools, colleges, universities and libraries, throughout the world.
Highly recognized for his creative expertise in the field of orchestral programming, McRae is deeply committed to offering his audiences a wide range of diverse and challenging symphonic works. His personal philosophy is that “audiences should enjoy making evaluations of different works, whether positive or negative, knowing that the very process of reaction is what keeps all art alive.” Throughout his career, Paul Anthony McRae has presented many world, United States, and European premiers to much critical acclaim.
Following his musical studies, McRae became the founding music director of the Boca Raton Symphony Orchestra in Florida and its success was virtually unprecedented anywhere in the United States. Within a matter of only three months from the orchestra’s debut performance, all 2,400 subscriptions to the symphony’s concert series were completely “sold out”, making it necessary to repeat performances to accommodate patrons on waiting lists. Attending the opening performance of the Boca Raton Symphony’s second season was Ralph Black, Vice President of the League of American Orchestras. Black travels throughout the United States listening to orchestras and observing their quality and growth. In an interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Black explained that there are 1,572 orchestras in the United States, “more than the rest of the world combined.” When asked his opinion of the Boca Raton Symphony, he replied, “This orchestra is vastly better than it has a right to be in only eighteen months.” He attributes this to a “first class conductor” and claimed he was “absolutely astounded at the music being made by this orchestra.” His prediction is that South Florida would have a “major orchestra stemming from McRae’s capabilities.” And soon it did.
After three highly successful seasons of immense artistic growth with the Boca Raton Symphony, an ever increasing appeal for “orchestral regionalism” in South Florida finally prevailed culminating in a merger between the 37 year old Fort Lauderdale Symphony and its three year old counterpart, the Boca Raton Symphony. The newly merged orchestra was named the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra and became America’s newest major symphony orchestra with an impressive annual budget of approximately $12 million. Paul Anthony McRae was named its resident conductor and conducted the orchestra in about 80 performances each year throughout South Florida, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Palm Beach.
Prior to the completion of his successful tenure with the Florida Philharmonic, McRae was appointed music director of two American orchestras – the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra in North Carolina, and Chicago’s Lake Forest Symphony in Illinois. Under his dynamic leadership, both orchestras received outstanding local, state and national attention, as well as tremendous critical acclaim from the International arts community.
In early 1991, McRae and the Lake Forest Symphony were selected from an elite group of mid-western orchestras by a distinguished panel from the League of American Orchestras, to perform the only orchestral concert -other than those to be performed by Leonard Bernstein and the Chicago Symphony – at the League’s annual conference for 6,000 world-wide delegates. Immediately following the performance, League of American Orchestras Vice President, Donald Thulean, praised McRae and the Lake Forest Symphony’s all American composer’s performance, declaring…”It was a triumphant event – one that will long be remembered by those delegates who were fortunate enough to attend.”
As a further testament to the orchestra’s meteoric artistic growth under Paul Anthony McRae’s leadership, the Lake Forest Symphony was named “Illinois Orchestra of the Year” in 1994, by the Illinois State Arts Council – and in a most gracious display of friendship and personal support for McRae’s accomplishments – world-renowned pianist, Andre Watts, volunteered (without fee) to perform two benefit concerts with McRae and the orchestra to financially assist the Lake Forest Symphony’s continued artistic development and success. The two completely sold-out benefit concerts were heralded throughout the Chicago area.
Equally, or perhaps even more successful, was Paul Anthony McRae’s concurrent nine year tenure as Music Director of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra in North Carolina.
His dynamism and his zeal were the driving forces behind the rapid expansion of the orchestra’s subscription series from seven “master works’ concerts to an astounding sixteen performances, quickly building the orchestra into an ensemble that was favorably compared with America’s largest “regional” orchestras, as well as with some of America’s smaller “major” orchestras by many visiting guest artists and music critics. With McRae’s introduction of exciting world and U.S. premiers, coupled with the orchestra’s thrilling new performance standards, the North Carolina State Arts Council presented McRae and the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra with its highest cultural award, the designation of “Statewide Arts Resource.” (Major Arts Organization) This designation became the much needed catalyst in not only providing the orchestra with major North Carolina State funding, but also with significant increased funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. During his tenure as music director, Paul Anthony McRae and his musicians enjoyed memorable collaborations with some of the world’s most outstanding artists including; Midori, Andre Watts, Joshua Bell, Lynn Harrell, Yefim Bronfman, Sarah Chang, Shlomo Mintz, Stephen Hough, Vadim Repin, Barry Douglas, Jean-Yves Thibeaudet and Santiago Rodriguez, among many others.
Paul Anthony McRae’s current discography includes the music of Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Respighi, Mozart, Dvorak and the late American composer, Russell James Peck. Music critics and reviewers for Musical America, High Fidelity, Opus, Fanfare Magazine, Ovation and Trax Audio and Video News have been impressed with the sensitivity, precision, and richness that McRae brings to his recorded performances. In a recording of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite with the English Chamber Orchestra, the American Record Guide praised his work, calling it, “superlative conducting and utterly beautiful sound—It’s hard to imagine a more perfect Pulcinella Suite.”