David Milnes serves as Music Director of the Eco Ensemble, UC Berkeley’s internationally recognized professional new-music ensemble-in-residence as well as the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. During his early years, he studied piano, organ, clarinet, cello, and voice, and briefly entertained a career as a jazz pianist, appearing with Chuck Mangione, Gene Krupa, Billy Taylor, and John Pizzarelli. After studying with Charles Rosen, Otto-Werner Müller, Herbert Blomstedt, Erich Leinsdorf, and Leonard Bernstein, Milnes won the prestigious Exxon Conductor position with the San Francisco Symphony at age 27, where he appeared frequently on the New and Unusual Music Series. He also served as Music Director of the highly acclaimed San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, which he led on its first European tour.
A dedicated proponent of new music, Milnes has led many performances with Earplay, the Empyrean Ensemble, Composers Inc., and the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. As Music Director of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, he commissioned and premiered new works from around the world from such composers as Phillipe Leroux, Liza Lim, Edmund Campion, Shulamit Ran, Zhou Long, Kui Dong, Earl Kim, Jorge Liderman, and Cindy Cox. With the Eco Ensemble he has conducted works by Pierre Boulez, Giorgi Ligeti, Jonathan Harvey, Beat Furrer, Harrison Birtwistle, Franck Bedrossian, Andrew Imbrie, and Ivan Fedele. He has made recordings of music by John Anthony Lennon, James Newton, Edmund Campion, Jorge Liderman, and Pablo Ortiz.
Milnes has led the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra and Eco Ensemble on four European tours since 2014, each featuring new music from Berkeley composers. In performance, he has collaborated with Pinchas Zukerman, Chanticleer, Frederica von Stade, Dawn Upshaw, Anna Netrebko, Bill T. Jones, and Paul Hillier, and has appeared at the Venice Biennale and Santa Fe, Tanglewood, Aspen, Other Minds and Monadnock music festivals.