Past Conductors

Dr. James Ray, Director

Dr. James Ray, the conductor of the North Sound Youth Symphony since 2019, is the NSYS’s newly-appointed Music Director and Symphony Conductor. He also joins the WWU music faculty, specializing in instrumental music education. A National Board Certified Teacher, Dr. Ray spent more than a decade teaching school orchestras at all levels. He is a sought-after guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator throughout the region.

Dr. Ray holds a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Central Washington University, a master’s in secondary teaching from Western Oregon University, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in music education from Boston University.  He brings to the Symphony a passion for teaching and a love of music.

Brett Mitchell

(current as of 2010) Now entering his fourth season as Assistant Conductor of the Houston Symphony, Brett Mitchell is one of America’s most exciting and promising young conductors. Since his appointment in September 2007, he has led the orchestra in nearly one hundred performances on all subscription series, several of which have been broadcast nationwide on SymphonyCast and Performance Today. Mr. Mitchell is also the newly appointed Music Director of the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, beginning his initial three-year contract in July 2010. In addition to these posts, he also currently serves as a regular cover conductor for The Philadelphia Orchestra.

In recent seasons, Mr. Mitchell has led the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall; the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter; The Philadelphia Orchestra; the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra; the Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Oregon, Memphis, Peoria, and Frankfurt Radio symphonies; and the Northwest Mahler Festival Orchestra. He served as a musical assistant at the New York Philharmonic during the 2007-08 season and as cover conductor for several programs with The Cleveland Orchestra in 2009. He made his European debut in 2004 with Romania’s Brasov Philharmonic and his Latin American debut in 2005 with the Orquesta Filarmónica de la UNAM in Mexico City. Highlights of his 2010-11 season include his debuts with both the National Symphony Orchestra and Da Camera of Houston, as well as preparing a new production of Puccini’s Trittico for Maestro Lorin Maazel at the 2010 Castleton Festival.

From 2006 to 2009, Mr. Mitchell was Assistant Conductor of the Orchestre National de France, where his responsibilities included conducting the orchestra and assisting Music Director Kurt Masur and such guest conductors as Seiji Ozawa at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and on tour. He was also Director of Orchestras at Northern Illinois University from 2005 to 2007 and Associate Conductor of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble from 2002 to 2006, where he led many subscription programs, six world premieres, and several recording projects. He has served as music director of numerous opera productions, including Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, Mark Adamo’s Little Women, and Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry.

A native of Seattle, Mr. Mitchell holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from The University of Texas at Austin, where he was also Music Director of the University Orchestra. Prior to that, he earned his Bachelor of Music in Composition from Western Washington University. Mr. Mitchell also participated in the National Conducting Institute in Washington, D.C., and studied extensively with Kurt Masur as a recipient of the inaugural American Friends of the Mendelssohn Foundation Scholarship. His position with the Houston Symphony was partially funded by the League of American Orchestras’ American Conducting Fellows program, which also afforded him the opportunity to meet, observe in rehearsal, and study with some of the world’s greatest conductors, including Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Muti, James Levine, and Robert Spano with such orchestras as the Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta symphonies.

Kathleen Ash Barraclough

Kathleen Ash Barraclough returned to the Pacific Northwest with glowing reviews of her work conducting symphonies, opera, musicals, choral groups, and guest conducting in the California Bay Area. She has experience on the other side of the podium as a performing violinist. She has played recitals at such vaunted venues as the Carmel Bach Festival, was Assistant Concertmaster of the San Jose Symphony and the Santa Clara Philharmonic, and was Concertmaster of the Musick Faire Chamber Orchestra.

Kathleen conducted the North Sound Youth Symphony for seven years after it was started in 1992. Under her leadership young musicians learned important skills in playing within a symphonic setting. Her experiences with music and her knowledge of styles and composers was passed on to the students. Kathleen brought her musical knowledge and passed it onto the students to help further their musical growth and mastery.

Since receiving her Masters of Arts in Music from the University of Southern California, Kathleen has received numerous awards, including the Mayor’s Art Award from the City of Bellingham; Women of Achievement Award-Arts, Santa Clara County, Cultural Award-City of Morgan Hill, nominated for a Golden Bell Award and Outstanding Programming Award, and Gavilan College.