Jeffrey Thomas

Artistic Director & Conductor

“unsurpassable as a Bach interpreter” ... “Thomas' direction seems just right, capturing the humanity of the music ... there is no higher praise for Bach performance” - Fanfare

“Throughout the performance conductor Jeffrey Thomas drew every ounce of expression from the ensemble.” “What he is interested in is shaping the delicate rise and fall of phrases, never through histrionics…His conducting shows a mastery of shading and noble proportion.” - Classical Sonoma

“Jeffrey Thomas draws crisp, vital playing from the ace baroque instrumentalists of American Bach Soloists, who provide galvanizing vigor but also caress the gut strings of their period instruments with unusual beauty.” - Opera News

Jeffrey Thomas began his musical studies as a toddler, trying to keep up with his older brother’s impressive piano skills. A nerve-wracking first piano recital appearance performing an American folk song arrangement led him to realize that piano would not be his instrument of choice. But a successful decade of playing violin brought much musical satisfaction. While a high school student, the arrival in his hometown of a professional harpsichordist piqued his interest and led to harpsichord and organ lessons, the latter affording him happy times in empty churches playing Bach (sometimes as loudly as possible) on the pipe organ. But singing would soon win out as the most likely career choice, so studies at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, S.U.N.Y. Purchase, and The Juilliard School culminated in his professional debut in Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera, The Last Savage, at the Spoleto Festival. That same week, he received a phone call from the office of San Francisco Opera General Director Kurt Herbert Adler, asking him to fly to San Francisco to sing a role in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger during the SFO’s debut Summer Season in 1981. Offered a chance to be one of the first group of Adler Fellows, Jeffrey moved to San Francisco to participate in the program, and was heard by the legendary guru of the Bay Area Early Music scene, Laurette Goldberg. After she heard Jeffrey in a performance of a Scarlatti opera, she said to him, “You know, dear, you should sing Bach!” and invited him to perform a concert of Bach cantatas. He was astonished to discover, at the first rehearsal, that his performer colleagues were harpsichordist/conductor Gustav Leonhardt and baritone Max van Egmond, Early Music musicians that he had idolized. “The rest is history,” as the saying goes. 

JEFFREY THOMAS is Artistic Director & Conductor of the American Bach Soloists, with whom he has directed and conducted recordings of more than 25 cantatas, the Mass in B Minor, Saint Matthew Passion, Brandenburg Concertos, and works by Corelli, Schütz, Pergolesi, Vivaldi, Haydn, and Beethoven. He has appeared with the Baltimore, Berkeley, Boston, Detroit, Houston, National, Rochester, Minnesota, and San Francisco symphony orchestras; with the Vienna Symphony and the New Japan Philharmonic; with many renowned Baroque orchestras worldwide; and in Austria, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Mexico. He has performed at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Spoleto USA Festival, Ravinia Festival, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, Boston Early Music Festival, Bethlehem Bach Festival, Göttingen Festival, Tage Alte Musik Festival in Regensburg, E. Nakamichi Baroque Festival in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian Institution, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's "Next Wave Festival," and he has collaborated on several occasions as conductor with the Mark Morris Dance Group.

Before devoting all of his time to conducting, he was one of the first recipients of the San Francisco Opera Company's prestigious Adler Fellowships. Praised by The New York Times for his "fervent declamation, brilliant coloratura and a voice of Italianate warmth," and cited by The Wall Street Journal as "a superstar among oratorio tenors," Mr. Thomas' extensive discography of vocal music includes dozens of recordings of major works for Decca, EMI, Erato, Koch International Classics, Denon, Harmonia Mundi, Smithsonian, Newport Classics, and Arabesque. Mr. Thomas is an avid exponent of contemporary music, and has conducted the premieres of new operas, including David Conte's Gift of the Magi and Firebird Motel, and premiered song cycles of several composers, including two cycles written especially for him. He has performed lieder recitals at the Smithsonian, song recitals at various universities, and appeared with his own vocal chamber music ensemble, L'Aria Viva.

Educated at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and the Juilliard School of Music, with further studies in English literature at Cambridge University, he has taught at the Amherst Early Music Workshop, Oberlin College Conservatory Baroque Performance Institute, San Francisco Early Music Society, and Southern Utah Early Music Workshops, presented master classes at the Eastman School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, SUNY at Buffalo, Swarthmore College, and Washington University, been on the faculty of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and was artist-in-residence at the University of California, where he is now Professor Emeritus of Music in the Department of Music at UC Davis, where he held the Barbara K. Jackson Chair in Conducting. He was a UC Davis Chancellor's Fellow from 2001 to 2006; and the Rockefeller Foundation awarded him a prestigious Residency at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center at Villa Serbelloni for April 2007, to work on his manuscript, "Handel's Messiah: A Life of Its Own."


182 Howard Street, #536
San Francisco, CA 94105


Phone: +1 (415) 621 7900 
Fax: +1 (415) 621 7920