George Steel, a nationally-acclaimed musician and impresario, was the Gardner Museum’s first Visiting Curator for Performing Arts from 2017-2018, designing invigorating multi-disciplinary programming including chamber music, dance, cabaret, theater, spoken word, poetry readings, Renaissance polyphony, and jazz pop-up events. In his role as Visiting Curator, Steel built on Isabella Stewart Gardner's legacy and her vision of the Museum as a hotbed for creativity in all forms.
Steel came to the Museum after being General Manager and Artistic Director of the New York City Opera from 2009 to 2013. He was Executive Director of Columbia University’s performing arts venue, Miller Theatre, for 11 years. He is also the founder and conductor of the Vox Vocal Ensemble and the Gotham City Orchestra.
During his tenure at the New York City Opera, Steel produced some of the company’s most acclaimed work, including new productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte, Rossini’s Mose in Egitto, and Offenbach’s La Perichole, as well as the New York stage premieres of Leonard Bernstein’s A Quiet Place, Thomas Ades’s Powder Her Face, Morton Feldman’s Neither, John Zorn’s La Machine de L’Etre, and Mark Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole.
Steel has worked with a long list of artists in many disciplines including Odetta, Rufus Wainwright, Kristin Chenoweth, Maurizio Pollini, Mavis Staples, Elizabeth Diller, Max Roach, E.V. Day, Ralph Lemon, Yo-Yo Ma, Lou Reed, Zakir Hussain, Wendy Whelan, Ornette Coleman, Iannis Xenakis, Ray Barretto, Rebecca Taichman, Steve Reich, Kehinde Wiley, Pierre Boulez, John Zorn, Frisner Augustin, Christopher Wheeldon, Jennifer Steinkamp, Simon Shaheen, and Leonard Bernstein, among many, many others.
The New York Times called Steel “a spokesman of national stature about ways to make classical music matter to new generations of listeners.”
A well-regarded music educator, he taught at St. Augustine School of the Arts in the 1980s. He has taught and spoken at a variety of places from Aspen Music Festival, Yale, and Columbia to Operahögskolans in Stockholm.
A composer and conductor, he has received BMI’s Harrington Award “for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Musical Theater” as well as the Trailblazer Award from the American Music Center and the ASCAP Concert Music Award. He has twice received the Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming.