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Music Director and Symphony Orchestra Conductor

Mr. Robert Gilson serves as the Music Director of the San Diego Civic Youth Orchestra (CYO) and as Conductor of the CYO Symphony Orchestra.  He was Professor of Music at Palomar College until his retirement in 2007.  He now holds the title "Professor Emeritus." Mr. Gilson conducted music ensembles at Palomar College since he joined the staff in 1973 and was Chairperson of the Palomar College Music Department from 1974-1977,  and the Chairperson of the Performing Arts Department from 1997-2002.  He also served on the Academic Senate of the College.

He received his Masters’ Degree with Distinction from the Indiana University School of Music and has done postgraduate work at San Jose State University and the University of Southern California.  He was Music Director and Conductor of the Palomar Community Orchestra from 1974 until his retirement.  In 1986, he co- founded the North County Civic Youth Orchestra program.   Mr. Gilson has been conductor for three San Diego City Honor Orchestra performances and for the Oceanside Unified School District High School Honor Orchestra.  He also has adjudicated for the Poway Unified School District and Temecula Valley String competition.  He has a long-standing commitment to music education for young people, as evidenced by his almost 30-year leadership with CYO.

Mr. Gilson spent a one-year sabbatical during 1982-83 studying in England, Germany and Austria.  In 1985, he attended a Masters’ Conducting Seminar at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.  In the Spring of 1991, Mr. Gilson spent his second sabbatical leave researching and studying youth orchestra programs in St. Louis and Chicago.  Mr. Gilson’s mentor/teachers include Daniel Lewis (USC), Tibor Kozma and Wolfgang Vacano (Indiana University School of Music), Sergiu Celibadache (Munich Philharmonic), and Claudio Abbado (Chicago Symphony and London Symphony). Mr. Gilson took the Civic Youth Orchestra Symphony on its first international tour in 1993 to Salzburg, Innsbruck and Vienna.  From 1996 through 2008, the orchestra toured internationally every other year to countries in Europe, including Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the South Pacific.  The Orchestra's last international travel was in 2008, a two-week “Down-Under Tour” which took them to cities in Australia and New Zealand. 

The CYO Symphony has participated in numerous West Coast Youth Orchestra Invitational Festivals at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the most recent in June 2019.  The Orchestra also was invited to participate in the Viennese Masters Invitational Orchestra Festival at Carnegie Hall in New York City in June, 2020.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event unfortunately was cancelled. The Orchestra will perform at Carnegie Hall this year on Friday night, June 21, 2024.

With a select orchestra from the CYO Symphony, Mr. Gilson has conducted over 125 performances of The Nutcracker Ballet with City Ballet (San Diego), West Coast Ballet (Escondido), and North County Academy of Dance (Fallbrook).

Mr. Gilson has a long-standing commitment to music education and has inspired performance opportunities for young musicians.  Most recently, in the fall of 2018, Mr. Gilson was instrumental in forging a collaboration between Civic Youth Orchestra and the Escondido Union School District.  The after school “Allegro” strings program offers instruction to elementary school students, grades 3-5 free of charge, through a generous grant and private sponsorship.  Over 130 students were enrolled in the initial year of the Allegro program. The program was interrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been revitalized and is now thriving in 2024.

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