Joel Ethan Fried has been responsible for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's (RCO) programming since 1999, first as Director of Artistic Administration and now as Artistic Director. Born in Berkeley, California (USA), he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano and his doctoral degree in opera at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Music. He won prizes in conducting competitions in Vienna and Oakland, California (USA). After beginning his career as an assistant conductor with the New York City Opera, he conducted hundreds of performances of operatic and symphonic repertoire in Europe and the United States. From 1992 to 1994 he was chorus master and music administrator at Pittsburgh Opera, and from 1994 to 1999 he was artistic manager of the Bochum Symphony in Germany.
Fried conceived and developed the RCO's projects focusing on Shostakovich, Messiaen, "Bach meets Brahms", and Bernstein. He also has cast the RCO's vocal productions, including the critically acclaimed concert performances of Wagner's Lohengrin in December 2015.
While continuing the RCO’s devotion to the traditional core repertoire of the 19th and early 20th centuries, with special attention to the works of Bruckner and Mahler, he has developed and strengthened the orchestra’s unique contemporary music series. Under his leadership, the RCO has commissioned more than fifty new works from a variety of composers, including its first commissions ever for multimedia and spatial works.
In order to reach new audiences and strengthen connections with existing audiences, Fried initiated RCO Club Night, the successful "Essentials" series, the RCO Artist in Residence, and post-concert "Meet the Artists" events, and he expanded the RCO's concert previews. His orchestral programming has received awards both in the United States and in Europe.