The Kennedy Center

Jeannette Sorrell


Conductor and Harpsichordist

Jeannette Sorrell is recognized internationally as a leading creative voice among early-music conductors.   The daughter of a European immigrant father and an American mother, she grew up as a musician and dancer, and was one of the youngest students ever accepted to the prestigious conducting courses of the Aspen and the Tanglewood music festivals. She studied conducting under Robert Spano, Roger Norrington and Leonard Bernstein, and harpsichord with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam. She won both First Prize and the Audience Choice Award in the 1991 Spivey International Harpsichord Competition, competing against over 70 harpsichordists from Europe, Israel, the U.S., and the Soviet Union.

Sorrell is the founder and conductor of the renowned period ensemble Apollo's Fire in Cleveland. She has led the world-class baroque orchestra in sold-out concerts at London's BBC Proms and London's Wigmore Hall, Madrid's Royal Theatre (Teatro Real), the Grand Théâtre de l'Opéra in Bordeaux, the Aldeburgh Festival (UK), the Tanglewood Festival, Boston's Early Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Library of Congress, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), among others. At home in Cleveland, she and Apollo's Fire have built one of the largest audiences of any baroque orchestra in North America.

Since her 2013 conducting debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony, which was met with standing ovations every night, Sorrell has become one of the leading baroque specialists collaborating with major symphony orchestras.  Aside from her National Symphony Orchestra debut this season, she has conducted the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Utah Symphony, New World Symphony (Miami), the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis with the St. Louis Symphony, and the Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), among others.
Sorrell and Apollo's Fire have released 25 commercial CDs, of which 7 have been bestsellers on the Billboard classical chart.  Her recordings include the complete Brandenburg Concerti and harpsichord concerti of Bach (with Sorrell as harpsichord soloist and director), which debuted in the Billboard Classical Top 10 in 2012.  She has also released four discs of Mozart. Other recordings include Handel's Messiah, the Monteverdi Vespers (Billboard Classical Top 10) and four creative crossover projects: Come to the River - An Early American Gathering (Billboard Classical Top 10); Sacrum Mysterium - A Celtic Christmas Vespers (Billboard Classical #11); Sugarloaf Mountain - An Appalachian Gathering (Billboard Classical Crossover #5); Sephardic Journey – Wanderings of the Spanish Jews (Billboard World Music #2, Classical #7); and Bach's St John Passion (CD with accompanying videos), just released this year.
Sorrell has attracted national attention and awards for her creative programming, which has brought many new listeners to early music. Her contextual and thematic programs often make use of dramatic elements.

She holds an honorary doctorate from Case Western University, two special awards from the National Endowment for the Arts for her work on early American music, and an award from the American Musicological Society.  Passionate about guiding the next generation of performers, Ms. Sorrell has led many baroque projects for students at Oberlin Conservatory.

Jeannette Sorrell