Joseph H. Conyers was appointed assistant principal bass of The Philadelphia Orchestra in 2010 and has been acting associate principal since 2017. He joined the Orchestra after tenures with the Atlanta Symphony; the Grand Rapids Symphony, where he served as principal bass; and the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra.
Described by the Grand Rapids Press as “a lyrical musician who plays with authenticity that transcends mere technique,” Conyers has performed with many orchestras as soloist, including the Alabama Symphony, the Flagstaff Symphony, the Richmond Symphony, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and the Sphinx Symphony, having won second prize at the 2004 Sphinx Competition in Detroit. In 2008 John B Hedges wrote a concerto for him, Prayers of Rain and Wind, commissioned by the Grand Rapids Symphony.
As a chamber musician, Conyers is an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Other chamber music festivals and collaborations have included the Ilumina Festival (Brazil), the Savannah Music Festival (GA), the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival (VA), the Kingston Chamber Music Festival (RI), the Lexington Chamber Music Festival (KY) and the Festival Internacional de Música de Esmeraldas (Ecuador) with such artists as James Ehnes, Daniel Hope and members of the Emerson String Quartet.
Conyers received his bachelor’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with both Harold Robinson, principal bass of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and double bass soloist Edgar Meyer. Other mentors have included David Warshauer, principal bass of the former Savannah Symphony; Daniel Swaim; and Albert Laszlo.
Conyers is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He is a 2019 Sphinx Organization Medal of Excellence recipient, an honor accompanied by a substantial career grant and ceremonies at the Kennedy Center and the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2018 he received the C. Hartman Kuhn award, the highest honor bestowed on a musician of The Philadelphia Orchestra and selected by its music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Later that year, he was named one of Musical America’s 30 Professionals of the Year: Innovators, Independent Thinkers, and Entrepreneurs. In 2015 he was the recipient of the inaugural Young Alumni Award from his alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music, and in 2007 was named one of “30 Leaders 30 and Under” by Ebony magazine. In 1999 he was one of the first guests on a pilot show taping of NPR’s From the Top with host Christopher O’Riley.
Committed to education and community engagement through music, Conyers served as adjunct faculty at Calvin College (MI) and Clark Atlanta University; he is currently on the faculty of Temple University in Philadelphia. He has taught at numerous summer music festivals including the Philadelphia International Music Festival, the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and Academy, and the National Repertory Orchestra. In addition he has given master classes and lectures across the country, including at the Colburn School, the Curtis Institute of Music, New England Conservatory, Yale University, Ohio State University, the University of Georgia and the Peabody Conservatory.
For much of 2010, Conyers was featured in a television commercial as a part of a Mutual of Omaha advertisement campaign. His “aha moment” was about his inspiration founding the nonprofit Project 440 (project440.org). Through its nationally recognized curricula, Project 440 uses music as a tool to engage, educate and inspire young musicians, providing them with care and life skills to become tomorrow’s civic-minded, entrepreneurial leaders. Partners have included Carnegie Hall, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Curtis Institute of Music, the New York State Summer School of the Arts and the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia.
In 2015, Conyers was appointed music director of Philadelphia’s famed All City Orchestra, an ensemble showcasing the top orchestral talent of students in the School District of Philadelphia. Project 440’s programs are accessible by all high school music students in the School District of Philadelphia free of charge.
Conyers currently serves on the National Advisory Board of the Atlanta Music Project and has served on the board of directors for the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) and the board of overseers for the Curtis Institute of Music. He performs on the “Zimmerman/Gladstone” 1802 Vincenzo Panormo double bass, which he has affectionately named “Norma.”
Biography courtesy of The Philadelphia Orchestra
Photo: Jessica Griffin