Born on Kingston-upon-Thames in England, Hugh Keelan has been a pianist since age 8, later also a violist. At the age of 16 Maestro Keelan conducted Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. He went on to study Music at Cambridge with his primary mentor Robin Holloway, graduating with a Double First, the Hughes Prize ‘for outstanding excellence’, and the award of a coveted Harkness Fellowship (comparable to a Rhodes Scholarship) that allowed him to study conducting at Indiana University and Mannes College. Remaining in New York for private study with Vladimir Kin (from the Leningrad school of Mravinsky and Rabinovich,) he worked at the American Opera Center at the Juilliard School.
Amongst many Guest Conducting engagements, highlights have been with the Saint Louis Symphony, La Fenice in Venice, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague. In the opera house (Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, Metropolitan Opera) Maestro Keelan has worked with such luminaries as Sir Georg Solti, Sir Bernard Haitink and Sir Colin Davis, Sir Peter Hall, Andre Serban, Maurice Sendak and Tom Stoppard.
Maestro Hugh Keelan performed as piano soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 with the Erie Philharmonic in addition to conducting Die Meistersinger Prelude, Till Eulenspiegel and the Afternoon of a Faun. These performances capped Maestro Keelan’s tenure as Music Director of the Erie Philharmonic, following a 15-year appointment as Music Director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, an orchestra of extraordinarily high quality calling on the finest players from New York and Philadelphia. More recently he played and conducted from the keyboard Rhapsody in Blue with the Windham Orchestra, with whom he has also played as piano soloist in Jacob Mashak's Piano Concerto (premiered in 2014), and Brahms' Piano Concerto No.1 (2018).
Maestro Keelan is known and admired for his ability to connect very deeply with the performers with whom he works, and through them communicating an extraordinary power and enthusiasm to the audience. His major influences are the great conductors of the mid-20th century (Beecham, Klemperer, De Sabata amongst others) and in our own times Carlos Kleiber and Celibidache.