The SPCO is recognized for its innovative approach to artistic leadership. In 2004, the SPCO transferred broad artistic responsibilities from a music director to the SPCO musicians and an intentionally diverse group of Artistic Partners – currently Italian conductor Roberto Abbado, Dutch conductor Edo de Waart, American soprano Dawn Upshaw, German pianist Christian Zacharias, and Austrian violinist Thomas Zehetmair. Past Artistic Partners include pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, conductor Douglas Boyd, violinist Joshua Bell, conductor Nicholas McGegan, and pianist and composer Stephen Prutsman. In collaboration with a committee of SPCO musicians and management, the Artistic Partners develop distinctive multi-year programming plans focused on the particular musical interests they share with the SPCO.
"Conductor Roberto Abbado has honed his craft with smaller orchestras and is one of the world's hottest conductors."
- The Star Tribune
"Dutch conductor Edo de Waart is a master of his art."
- Hawkes Bay Today, New Zealand
“Her radiant lyric voice is at the constant service of a poetic imagination... She has the communicative gift to create each new thought as if it were just coming to life within her.”
- The New York Times
“Superior and sparkling pianism are just the beginning of Zacharias’ virtues. As a conductor, he has the gift of bringing out the best qualities in an orchestra.”
- L.A. Times
"Thomas Zehetmair went all out for rapture and rhapsody…It was music making the way only Zehetmair could do it."
- The Telegraph, London