Music Director and Principal Conductor

Martin West, Music Director & Principal Conductor
In 2005, Martin West officially joined San Francisco Ballet as the Music Director and Principal Conductor of the orchestra.
Photo by Chris Hardy

Martin West is acknowledged as one of the best conductors of ballet, garnering critical acclaim throughout the world. Born in Bolton, England, he studied math at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge University, before studying at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music and London’s Royal Academy of Music.

In fall 1997, West made his debut with the English National Ballet and was immediately appointed resident conductor. There, he led almost half of the company’s performances throughout England and abroad. From 2004-2007 he held the position of principal conductor before relinquishing the post to allow him the flexibility to appear with other companies. In recent seasons, he has worked with many of the top dance companies in North America, such as the New York City Ballet, the Houston Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada.

West has also worked with the Hallé Orchestra, Holland Symfonia and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra as well as with Denmark’s Odense Symphony. He made his U.S. symphonic conducting debut with the Silicon Valley Symphony, resulting in an immediate re-invitation. From 1998 to 2005, West was the music director of the Cambridge Philharmonic, one of England’s oldest and highest-achieving amateur music societies. He also had a long association with the Pimlico Opera and frequently toured with them. 

In fall 2005, after being a frequent guest for a couple of years, West joined the Ballet as its Music Director and Principal Conductor. His performances and recordings with the Ballet Orchestra have been a great success. 

Fun Facts about Martin West:

  • The first time he played in an orchestra was when he was 4 years old—he played the triangle in the percussion section!
  • Even while studying math at Cambridge, West spent most of his year playing music (and then catching up on his math before exams).
  • He first realized that he would like to be a conductor when he played with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and watched the conductor shape and guide the orchestra’s sound without a single word.