Composer, Conductor, Pianist, Speaker

Joe Illick

Joe Illick is the Composer-in-Residence and the Music Director Emeritus of Fort Worth Opera. He has served as the Artistic Director of Fort Worth Opera from 2017 to 2022, having served for fifteen seasons as Music Director and Principal Conductor. From 2007 to 2017 he served as Executive and Artistic Director of Performance Santa Fe. He has also served as Artistic Director of the Lake George Opera Festival, as Interim Artistic Director of Greater Miami Opera (now Florida Grand Opera) and as Music Director of the Pittsburgh Opera Theater. He was the Artistic Director of Shreveport Opera and Principal Guest Conductor of the Teatro Lirico d’Europa. He has also conducted for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Opera Carolina, San Francisco Opera (Merola), Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Augusta Opera, Opera Omaha, Skylight Opera Theater, Eugene Opera, Nevada Opera Theater, Minnesota Opera National Tour, Pittsburgh Opera Theater, Greater Miami Opera, Teatro Lirico d’Europa, Lake George Opera Festival, Atlantic Opera USA, Stadttheater Aachen, Vienna Chamber Opera (Wiener Kammeroper) and the Covent Garden Ensemble. He is the conductor of the recordings of the world premieres of Thomas Pasatieri’s operas FRAU MARGOT and BEFORE BREAKFAST, and of the world premiere of Jorge Martin’s opera BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, all on the Albany label.

His symphonic engagements include the Augusta Symphony, the Austrian Radio Orchestra, Miami Symphony Orchestra, Vizcaya Mozart Festival, Mid-Columbia Symphony (Washington), Santa Fe Pro Musica, the Santa Fe Symphony, and the Performance Santa Fe Orchestra.

As a concert pianist he won first prize in the Mid-Somerset Festival in Bath, England and he is currently active both as a piano soloist and in chamber music.

He served as the Artistic Director of Voices of Change, the new music ensemble of Dallas, for five years. The company received great critical acclaim during his tenure. He was also the Artistic and Musical Director of the Dallas-based art song recital group, Voces Intimae.

As a composer, he is the recipient of the Van Someren Award in the United Kingdom for composition of a song cycle. His monodrama Emma was performed on public television, and excerpts from his one-act comedy Gunpoint have been performed with orchestra in New Mexico, New York and Washington. His symphonic work A Newer World was premiered in New York. His Ulysses was premiered in Italy, and his Trio in B Minor for piano, violin and cello, Genetic Love, Transcendence and his Fantasy for Violin and Piano were premiered in Dallas and reprised in Fort Worth. His opera Bliss was premiered at the Wily Theater in Dallas. He was commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera to compose the one-act opera UnShakeable, premiered in April of 2016, with a libretto by Andrea Fellows Fineberg. The opera was given 160 performances around New Mexico and Colorado. His opera Feel the Tango, with a libretto by Susan Westfall, was premiered in Santa Fe in July of 2017 and then produced again in Fort Worth, Shreveport and Nashville. Two family operas with libretti by Mark Campbell, Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World (English and Spanish versions) and Stone Soup, continue to be performed regulary by several companies, including Fort Worth Opera, Seattle Opera, Tri-Cities Opera, Opera Steamboat, Central City Opera, and Florida Grand Opera. His Zoom opera Bernadette’s Cozy Book Nook, also with a libretto by Mark Campbell, entertained viewers during the first year of the pandemic. His opera Stand Up, with a libretto by Sheran Goodspeed Keyton, was premiered in November of 2022 in Fort Worth. His newest piece, Zozobra: The Revenge – A Musical Fable, with a libretto by Douglas Preston, will premiere in Santa Fe in August of 2024.

His lectures and informal talks on classical music, composing and opera are extremely popular. He has given hundreds of live presentations to audiences around the United States and in Europe, as well as numerous radio programs and television broadcasts about opera and symphonic music.


Royal College of Music, London
piano and composition
1976 – 1978

Vienna Conservatory
1983 – 1985


First Prize, Bath Festival
piano competition

First Prize, Van Someren Award, London
competition for composition of a song cycle

Executive and Artistic Director, Performance Santa Fe | 2007 – 2017

Music Director, Fort Worth Opera | 2002 – 2017

Artistic Director, Fort Worth Opera | 2017 – 2022

Artistic Director, Shreveport Opera | 1996 – 2002

Principal Conductor, Teatro Lirico d’Europa | 1999 – 2001

Artistic Director, Lake George Opera | 1994 – 1998

Music Director, Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh | 1994 – 1996

Interim Artistic Director, Greater Miami Opera (now Florida Grand Opera) | 1992 – 1993

Public Television Series in Miami to discuss and perform operas | 1992

Program Notes, Greater Miami Opera | 1989 – 1994

Lecture Series, Miami | 1989 – 1994

Lecture Series, Santa Fe Opera | 2000 – 2004

Director, Young Artist Program, Greater Miami Opera | 1988 – 1992

Monodrama Emma performed on Public Television | 1992

Excerpts of opera Gunpoint (libretto by Melody Owens) performed | 1998

Opera Bliss (libretto by Frank Corsaro and Joe Illick) performed at the Wily Theater Center, Dallas | 2010

Opera UnShakeable performed in Santa Fe and on tour in New Mexico and Colorado | 2016 – 2018

Opera Feel the Tango performed in Santa Fe and Fort Worth | 2017 – 2018