Benjamin Nilles is the quintessential 21st Century American conductor: A champion of new music who has brought to life new cinematic soundtracks, orchestral masterworks, and classical opera scores. Nilles is the new Artistic Director & Conductor of the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra in Minnesota and is beginning his tenure with their 2016-2017 season.

Raised in North Dakota and educated in music schools of the Upper Midwest and Great Plains, at age 28 he was appointed as conductor of the Oklahoma City University Symphony Orchestra, becoming one of the youngest conductors and artistic directors to lead a major university ensemble. He had previously held Assistant Conductor and Associate Conductor posts with the same orchestra.

From the podium of the award-winning Oklahoma City University Symphony Orchestra, Nilles has displayed a virtuosic versatility: conducting multimedia spectacles for full orchestra; leading the first live streaming concerts of symphonic masterworks from the Petree Recital Hall stage; conducting the Oklahoma Opera & Music Theater Company's production of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, winner of the National Opera Association's Opera Production Competition; and recording the 80-minute soundtrack of the historic 1920 movie Daughter of Dawn, selected in 2013 for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

During his tenure with the Oklahoma City University Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra reached new heights of ability and became an important fixture in the community and region. The orchestra, routinely asked to be the centerpiece of important historical galas and events, garnered high praise with each performance under Nilles. As a leader and faculty member at Oklahoma City University, he was dedicated to education and sharing his passion of music, cultivating the highest level of musicianship from the orchestra and students in the classroom. In addition to galas and events, Nilles led the Symphony Orchestra on many trips to schools in the region and community, expanding the reach of the orchestra.

Nilles has been a mainstay in the recording studio setting. He has led studio orchestras for commercial recordings, including the title track for singer Bryan White's album Dustbowl Dreams, and full orchestras for soundtracks and premieres. He has also led orchestras for live-concert releases on CD and DVD.

His most recent major event was the workshopping, gala premiere and recording of the 40-minute, five-movement Windows to the West, in commemoration of the golden anniversary of the National Western Heritage Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame. The work’s composer, Edward Knight, praised Nilles’ nuance, artistry and collaborative skills, calling him “a sensitive, charismatic conductor with an exceptional mind, a keen ear, and effortless technical abilities.”

Nilles earned his bachelor’s in music from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and his graduate degree from Oklahoma City University. He has studied conducting with Bruce Houglum, Mark Parker and Mark Belcik, and has worked with conductors Diane Wittry, Dennis Keene, Sergiu Comissiona and Bernard Rubenstein.


Conducted Repertoire

Conducted Repertoire


In Performance


Adams, John


Bach, J.S

A Mighty Fortress is our God, Arr. Damrosch

Wachet auf!, Arr. Stokowski

Barber, Samuel

Overture to School for Scandal

Second Essay for Orchestra

Toccata Festiva

Beethoven, Ludwig van

Coriolan Overture

Piano Concerto No. 5, I. Allegro, Emperor

Symphony No. 5

Symphony No. 7

Berlioz, Hector

Hungarian March

Requiem (Brass Bands)

Roman Carnival Overture

Symphonie fantastique

Bernstein, Leonard

Overture to Candide

Three Dance Episodes from On the Town

Bizet, Georges

L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2

Borodin, Alexander

Polovtsian Dances

Boyce, William

Symphony No. 5

Brahms, Johannes

Academic Festival Overture

Symphony No. 3

Tragic Overture

Bruckner, Anton

Symphony No. 6

Clarke, Callen

Wiley Post (2011)

Copland, Aaron:

Appalachian Spring Suite (13-instrument version)

Fanfare for the Common Man

Daugherty, Michael

Route 66

Debussy, Claude

La cathedrale engloutie, arr. Stokowski

Danses sacree et profane

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun

Dukas, Paul

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Dvorák, Antonín

Carnival Overture

Scherzo Capriccioso

Slavonic Dance No. 15

Elgar, Edward

Cello Concerto, I. Adagio – Moderato

Finale from Enigma Variations

In the South (Alassio)

Serenade for Strings

Fauré, Gabriel


Gabrieli, Giovanni

Canzon à 12

Canzon à 12 in echo

Canzon in echo duodecimi toni à 10

Canzon per Sonare No. 2

Omnes gentes à 16 in quatro cori

Gershwin, George

Rhapsody in Blue

Grieg, Edvard

Norwegian Dances

Hanson, Howard

Symphony No. 2, Romantic

Harris, Roy

When Johnny Comes Marching Home Overture

Haydn, Franz Joseph

Cello Concerto No. 1, I. Moderato 

Hovhaness, Alan

Mysterious Mountain

Humperdinck, Engelbert

Overture to Hansel & Gretel

Knight, Edward

Windows to the West (2015)

Leoncavallo, Ruggero

Pagliacci (Fully-staged performances)

Mahler, Gustav

Symphony No. 9

Martinu, Bohuslav

Memorial to Lidice

Massenet, Jules

Suite from Le Cid

Mendelssohn, Felix

Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Overture to Saint Paul

Symphony No. 4, Italian

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus

Clarinet Concerto

Symphony No. 36, Linz

Violin Concerto No. 4, I. Allegro

Mussorgsky, Modest

Pictures at an Exhibition; arr. Ravel

Nielsen, Carl

Maskarade Overture

Rachmaninoff, Sergei

Piano Concerto No. 2, I. Moderato

Ravel, Maurice

Le tombeau de Couperin

Respighi, Ottorino

Church Windows, I. Flight into Egypt, IV. Saint Gregory the Great

Respighi, Ottorino

Fountains of Rome

Pines of Rome

Rimsky-Korsakov, Nicolai

Capriccio espagnol

Russian Easter Overture


Rossini, Gioachino

Overture to La gazza ladra

Overture to Semiramide

Overture to William Tell

Saint-Saëns, Camille

Cello Concerto No. 1, I. Allegro non troppo

Schubert, Franz

Symphony No. 8, Unfinished

Séjourné, Emmanuel

Concerto for Marimba and Strings

Sibelius, Jean

Symphony No. 2

Violin Concerto, I. Allegro moderato

Smetana, Bedrich

The Moldau

Strauss, Johann

On the Beautiful Blue Danube

Strauss, Richard

Salome’s Dance from Salome

Der Rosenkavalier Suite

Stravinsky, Igor

Firebird Suite 1919

Suppé, Franz von

Light Cavalry Overture

Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich

Capriccio italien

Piano Concerto No. 1, I. Allegro non troppo

“Polonaise” from Eugene Onegin

Symphony No. 4

Torke, Michael

Bright Blue Music

Vaughan Williams, Ralph

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Verdi, Giuseppe

Overture to La forza del destino

Overture to I vespri siciliani

Wagner, Richard

Overture to Rienzi

Prelude to Tristan und Isolde

“Ride of the Valkyries” from Die Walküre

Ward, Samuel

America the Beautiful, arr. Dragon

Weber, Carl Maria von

Overture to Der Freischütz

Weinberger, Jaromir

Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper

Williams, John

Main Theme from E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

Excerpts from Far and Away

In Rehearsal


Adams, John

Chairman Dances

Barber, Samuel

Medea’s Dance of Vengeance

Beethoven, Ludwig van

Egmont Overture

Symphony No. 1

Symphony No. 3, Eroica

Symphony No. 8

Bernstein, Leonard


Bizet, Georges

Carmen Suite No. 1

Symphony in C

Brahms, Johannes

Ein deutsches requiem

Symphony No. 1

Symphony No. 2

Bruckner, Anton

Symphony No. 4

Copland, Aaron


Debussy, Claude

La Mer

Noël des enfants

Dvorák, Antonín

Serenade for Strings

Serenade for Winds

Symphony No. 8

Symphony No. 9

Glinka, Mikhail

Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla

Haydn, Franz Joseph

Symphony No. 104, London

Hindemith, Paul

Symphonic Metamorphosis

Holst, Gustav

Mars & Jupiter from The Planets

Janácek, Leos


Mahler, Gustav

Symphony No. 1

Symphony No. 3

Symphony No. 4

Mendelssohn, Felix

The Hebrides

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus

Symphony No. 35, Haffner

Symphony No. 40

Mussorgsky, Modest

Night on Bald Mountain

Prokofiev, Serge

Lt. Kije Suite

Ravel, Maurice

Daphnis et Chloe, Suite No. 2

La Valse

Schubert, Franz

Symphony No. 5

Shostakovich, Dmitri

Festive Overture

Symphony No. 5

Symphony No. 6

Symphony No. 10

Sibelius, Jean


Symphony No. 3

Strauss, Richard

Serenade for Winds

Stravinsky, Igor


Rite of Spring

Symphonies for Wind Instruments

Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich

1812 Overture

Romeo and Juliet

Symphony No. 5

Symphony No. 6, Pathetique

Wagner, Richard

Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral from Lohengrin

Overture to ­Tannhäuser

Siegfried Idyll