Taka Matsunaga

Posted January 8, 2022

Elmhurst, IL

As the recipient of the 2021 Conductor of the Year granted by the Illinois Council of Orchestras as well as the third-place winner of the 2020 and 2021 American Prize in Orchestral Conducting, Taka Matsunaga is currently the Director of Orchestras and Assistant Professor of Music at Elmhurst University, where he conducts the University Orchestra. He is also a Founder and Music Director of the Midwest Philharmonic Orchestra in Schaumburg, Illinois. 

Matsunaga came to the United States in 1998 to pursue his violin studies with David Taylor, Joseph Golan and Robert Chen while attending Roosevelt University and Northeastern Illinois University, where he received his master’s degree in music. 

From 1999-2001, Matsunaga was a regular member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In March 2000, he performed at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Maestro Daniel Barenboim. While playing in the Civic Orchestra, Matsunaga has played with world-renowned conductors including Neeme Järvi, Christoph Eschenbach, Osmo Vänskä, Pierre Boulez and Pinchas Zukerman, to name just a few. 

Matsunaga has studied at the National Orchestral Institute at the University of Maryland as a full-scholar musician under the direction of Gerard Schwarz, a former music director of the Seattle Symphony, and Lan Shui, a conductor laureate of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Matsunaga went on to join the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, South Bend Symphony Orchestra and the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, where he served as an Assistant Concertmaster. 

As a conductor, Matsunaga made his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2018 with the Midwest Philharmonic Orchestra. He has conducted in Vienna, Salzburg, Detroit and at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center in Chicago. Matsunaga presented his conducting workshop for young conductors at the Illinois Music Education Conference virtually in April 2021 and also in January 2022 in Peoria, Illinois. He was also invited to conduct as a guest conductor at the Northern Illinois High School Orchestra Festival at Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa, Illinois in January 2022. 

Matsunaga is a member of the College Orchestra Directors Association (CODA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA), and American String Teachers Association (ASTA). 

He lives with his oboist wife, Naomi, and three children, Edward, Cecile, Felix, and a cockapoo named Tito.