James Kahane has been named as the next Music Director of Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. His appointment will begin in September 2024 at the start of the HPO’s 2024-2025 season.  

May 16, 2024 – The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra is thrilled to announce that rising star James S. Kahane will be the next Music Director of the Orchestra. The French-born conductor is currently Principal Conductor of the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra, Principal Conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de la Drôme, and Conductor of the Polytech Orchestra in Finland. He will assume his new role in September 2024 at the start of the 2024-2025 Season.   

“With his extraordinary musical talent, profound commitment to artistic excellence, keen interest in music education and the vital role that the HPO has played for 140 years in shaping our region’s cultural landscape, James Kahane embodies the vision and values of the HPO. In him, we have found a wonderful conductor, musician and collaborative leader who can inspire our musicians and delight our audiences,” said Heather Beale, Chair, HPO Board of Directors. 

Kahane responded:  

“I am honoured to be entrusted with the musical leadership of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. The growth of an orchestra is a continuous and exciting process and I’m privileged to succeed a long line of esteemed and talented colleagues that have brought the Hamilton Philharmonic to new heights. I’m looking forward to what the future holds, but more than anything, I can’t wait to make music together with the HPO again.” 

Responsible for the artistic vision of the HPO, Kahane will work closely with the musicians and staff to plan all mainstage and community programs, lead the growth and development of the orchestra and represent the orchestra publicly.    

“James is an exceptional artist with great talent and energy. His enthusiasm for music and its ability to connect us really shone through in meeting him,” said Kim Varian, HPO Executive Director. “His approach to programming is innovative and his commitment to community engagement and music education speaks directly to our mission.” 

In embarking on the search, the HPO had a clear vision of the qualities they were looking for in their new Music Director: someone deeply committed to artistic excellence, innovative programming, community engagement and music education. Equally important, the new Music Director will be a champion of Canadian artists and composers, new music and commissions and continue the impressive work of current Music Director Gemma New in the concert hall and in the community.  

The international search for the next Music Director began 18 months ago and was guided by the members of a search committee which included representatives of HPO musicians, members of the Board of Directors, the Executive Director and the audience, including subscribers and donors. Only seven candidates were shortlisted out of the 115 applicants. The audition week, which included rehearsals and conducting the HPO in a mainstage concert along with a series of interviews, enabled the search committee to get a good sense of each candidate on and off the podium. All HPO core musicians and staff members were surveyed for their comments and input after each performance.  

Kahane will succeed Gemma New who served as HPO’s Music Director for 9 years and recently stepped down at the end of the 2023-24 Season.  He will make his debut as the new Music Director of the HPO when he conducts the 24-25 Season opening concert on September 21, 2024.  


A refined and passionate conductor, French-born James S. Kahane has recently been named the next Music Director of Canada’s Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. He is founding member and Principal Conductor of the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra, Principal Conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de la Drôme, and Conductor of the Polytech Orchestra in Finland.  Kahane has conducted first-rate orchestras around the world such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Finnish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. A rising star, at the age of 21 Kahane was appointed assistant conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra for their 2017/2018 season, working with renowned Finnish conductor, Susanna Mälkki.  Since 2016, Kahane has been the conductor of the Far(away) Ensemble, a modular and multidisciplinary ensemble with whom he recorded the music of Jacopo Aliboni for the short films Du Temps Perdu and Le Temps Prend Feu.  

Among the notable orchestras he has conducted are the Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, the Ostrobothnia Chamber Orchestra, the Tapiola Sinfonietta, the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, the Jyväskylä Sinfonia, the St. Michel Strings, the Helsinki Sinfonietta, the Glasperlenspiel Sinfonietta, the Pori Sinfonietta, the Joensuu City Orchestra and the Rehovot Symphony Orchestra. With a wealth of experience in both the symphonic and operatic worlds, Kahane conducted the Finnish Chamber Opera on several occasions. At the Helsinki Contemporary Opera Festival he conducted productions of The Tragedy of Carmen by Bizet, The Rape of Lucretia by Britten and Years of Silence by Tuurna. Working regularly with very different repertoires, ranging from early Baroque up until the music of our times, Kahane was a guest conductor at the NYKY Ensemble, the Hurra Barockorkester, the Somnium Ensemble, the SaxiBa Ensemble, and the Miroirs Étendus Ensemble. Engagements next season include concerts in Finland, Canada, Germany and France. 

Parallel to that, Kahane was invited to attend major music festivals, conductor masterclasses and events, among which are Bernard Haitink’s conducting masterclass at the Lucerne Music Festival, the prestigious Tanglewood Music Festival, the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad, the 2017 Deutsche Dirigentenpreis (German Conductors’ Award), where he was one of 12 applicants chosen to conduct the WDR Symphony Orchestra and the Gürzenich Orchestra in Cologne. At the age of 22, he was asked by Kristjan Järvi to conduct the Baltic Academies Orchestra in Berlin during their first international tour, and the following year he was offered a conducting fellowship at the Atlantic Music Festival in the United States. In the spring of 2024, Kahane will be assistant conductor to Hannu Lintu at the prestigious Bayerische Staatsoper. 

A graduate from the world-renowned orchestral conducting class of the Sibelius Academy, Kahane studied under the tutelage of Sakari Oramo, Atso Almila and Hannu Lintu, and benefited from the teaching of major conductors such as Paavo Järvi, David Zinman, Peter Eötvös, Matthias Pintscher, Sir Roger Norrington, John Storgårds, Mikko Franck, Leif Segerstam, Johannes Schlaefli, Nicolas Pasquet and Jorma Panula. 

In 2018, the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE bought the rights to a documentary about three promising conductors of the Sibelius Academy, including James S. Kahane. The documentary was released in Finnish movie theatres in spring 2020. 


For 140 years, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra has presented orchestral music and education programs with a mission to enrich the wellbeing of the greater Hamilton region. The HPO presents dynamic orchestral performances ranging from standard classical repertoire to popular music and world premieres by living composers. As one of Canada’s leading professional orchestras, the HPO has proudly contributed to the shaping of Hamilton’s cultural landscape.  

The HPO is deeply committed to inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility in all programs, including symphony concerts (in-person and online); the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, administered by the HPO since 2021, and now the flagship music education program for young musicians in the region, closely linked to all community youth music education activities; 60+ community-based partner programs designed to meet the needs of diverse communities; music education performances, talks in schools and libraries; performances for children, youth and seniors; chamber music concerts in diverse neighbourhoods; lifelong learning and wellbeing events.  

In 2024 the HPO was proud to receive the Vida Peene Award from the Ontario Arts Council for artistic and organizational achievement. 

X: @H_P_O 
Instagram: @HamiltonPhilharmonic 
Facebook: facebook.com/HamiltonPhilharmonic/ 
YouTube: youtube.com/HamiltonPhilharmonic 

Media Contact: 

Sarah Chadwick
Marketing and Communications Coordinator 
Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra 
905.526.1677 x 211