Julian Fifer is an artist manager, producer of concerts, opera, recordings and educational materials, and former cellist. As cellist with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for its first 18 years, he performed in hundreds of cities on four continents. Mr. Fifer founded Orpheus in 1972 and was executive director for 26 years. He guided the ensemble from a counterculture startup to the top echelon of the concert and recording businesses.
For decades, Orpheus was the only orchestra in the world where the musicians ran the rehearsals and decided seating positions for every piece of music. Fifer conceived it as a conductorless ensemble in which all the musicians would share both the artistic opportunities and responsibilities, a model now emulated by a new generation of musicians. He identified and selected the musicians to form a virtuoso ensemble capable of performing at the highest international standard of excellence. In 1984, Fifer negotiated the largest record contract held by an American orchestra, resulting in the production of over 50 discs for Deutsche Grammophon in a twelve-year span. He developed relationships for the ensemble with virtually all the major international festivals and music centers, including London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Salzburg, Vienna, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tokyo, and forged collaborations with leading soloists of the day, including Yo-Yo Ma, Isaac Stern, Richard Goode, Radu Lupu, Anne Sophie von Otter, Gil Shaham, Wynton Marsalis, Alfred Brendel, Gidon Kremer, and Dawn Upshaw.
Having positioned the orchestra as an organizational model to help corporations address employee motivation, problem-solving, and job satisfaction, Fifer has been engaged by multinational corporations to speak about creating and sustaining effective teamwork and enhancing creativity and quality. As strategic advisor and worldwide booking manager to the Venice Baroque Orchestra, he has built an unprecedented concert and recording career for an Italian period-instrument ensemble, including many recordings for Sony and Deutsche Grammophon.
In 2000, with composer and educator Bruce Adolphe, Fifer co-founded The Learning Maestros, a company dedicated to creating new works and related curricula that integrate music with other disciplines, including science, literature, history, and issues of social conscience. At The Learning Maestros, Fifer and Adolphe believe that placing music and the arts at the center of engaged living enriches both the individual and society.
Driven by a passion to create ideal balances between music and place, performer and audience, Fifer founded and ran the Venice Music Festival for three years commencing in 2004. The Festival brought new life to neglected manuscripts through historically informed performances, fostered emerging talent, and commissioned new work.
A native New Yorker, Fifer started playing the cello at age six at the Manhattan School of Music, attended the Bronx High School of Science, studied chamber music at the Juilliard School, and received his B.A. in liberal arts from Columbia University. He resides in Portland, Oregon.
Fifer now serves as executive director of Musicians For Human Rights, whose mission is to foster a culture of humanism through music.