Karl Hirzer


Canadian conductor Karl Hirzer can’t remember a time when he didn’t want to be a musician. He believes music plays an essential role in our lives — it touches us viscerally, even though we can’t really explain why or how.

Growing up in New Westminster, BC, in a household filled with music, his parents had Glenn Gould and Louis Armstrong on the CD player, and he and his mother sang along with Irish folk songs on the radio (and he’d let her know if she hit a wrong note). He was 'composing' at the family’s upright piano at age four and formal piano lessons began at six. At 12, he started playing guitar in heavy metal bands and dreamed of becoming a rock star, while simultaneously perfecting Frédéric Chopin études and Ludwig van Beethoven sonatas, earning his ARCT at 17. Karl studied to become a solo pianist at the University of Victoria before getting his Master of Music at McGill University in Montréal.

He got his first taste of conducting an orchestra during his undergrad and basked in the wondrous experience of sharing his musical ideas with musicians and audiences through simple gestures. Imagine — hundreds of people in the concert hall, each having a unique experience of a shared moment, something communal and intimate at the same time, forging a personal relationship with a composer who may be long dead — or sitting in the front row. Today, he is the Associate Conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic and has led orchestras from Vancouver to Halifax, from the Gstaad Festival to education concerts in Warsaw.

Karl is especially committed to exploring music by living composers and believes that modern music defines what the classical idiom is today. He’s also heavily invested in bringing music to young audiences, helping them discover a sound world that’s completely captivating.

Karl Hirzer continues to perform as an instrumentalist and also composes his own music, blending genres while mixing acoustic and electronic instruments. Head’s up — his first album of original material will be released in the fall of 2023.