Founder & Artistic Director
Founder & Artistic director of the Asian Youth Orchestra Richard Pontzious founded the AYO in Hong Kong in 1990 with the distinguished violinist, conductor and humanitarian Yehudi Menuhin.
The idea for the creation of an orchestra that would unite the region and celebrate the talents of East Asia’s brightest young musicians came as the result of Mr. Pontzious’ work as conductor, writer, teacher and mentor in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. Critics have called AYO “astonishing” (Seattle Post Intelligencer) and the “finest among youth orchestras around the world” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Mr. Pontzious’ work with the Asian Youth Orchestra has led to extraordinary collaborations with Yehudi Menuhin, Sergiu Comissiona, James Judd, Wang Jian, Yo-Yo Ma, Alisa Weilerstein, Elmar Oliveira, Gidon Kremer, Elly Ameling, Cho-Liang Lin, Gil Shaham, Young Uck Kim, Stefan Jackiw, Jean Luis Steuerman and Alicia de Larrocha.
Recent tours with AYO have included live television and radio broadcasts from the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall as well as sellout performances in Beijing’s National Centre for Performing Arts, the Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre, the Xian Concert Hall, Kuala Lumpur’s Dewan Petronas Filharmonik, Singapore’s Esplanade, Hanoi’s historic Opera House marking its 100th anniversary, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Taipei’s National Concert Hall and Tokyo’s Opera City Concert Hall.
The Orchestra’s 25th anniversary concert in the 10,000-seat Hong Kong Coliseum included the participation of more than 300 current and former members of the Asian Youth Orchestra and a chorus of 300 for the Ode to Joy finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
In 2010 Maestro Pontzious was honored on behalf of the Asian Youth Orchestra to receive Japan’s Praemium Imperiale Grant for Young Artists, a global arts prize, and in 2015 Japan’s Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture and Community.
Maestro Pontzious was awarded Hong Kong’s Bronze Bauhinia Star in 2000, and in 2014 he was named an Honorary Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Two years later he was awarded Hong Kong’s Silver Bauhinia Star by the Hong Kong government for distinguished service to the arts in Hong Kong, and the name year he was subject of the film, “In Search of Perfect Consonance,” a documentary produced by Academy Award winning director, Ruby Yang.
The first overseas musician to be invited to live for an extended time in China after the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution, Mr. Pontzious served as conductor-in-residence at the prestigious Shanghai Conservatory of Music in the early 1980s, toured with the Conservatory orchestra, and conducted the orchestras of Nanjing, Hangzhou, Fuzhou, and Harbin, where he is credited with reviving that city’s Summer Arts Festival.
Mr. Pontzious received his private pilot’s license in 2000. Five years later he piloted a single engine Piper Archer across the United States in the company of AYO general manager Keith Lau, who served as navigator for the trip.