Jens Nygaard, founder and conductor of the Jupiter Symphony, died September 24, 2001. He was one of the most respected musicians in New York, an honor earned for many years of first-class performances in both the standard and rarely performed repertoire. A largely self-taught man, he brought to his work experience in virtually all types of music, uncommon technical facility, and a uniquely fresh view of every work he performed. Most importantly, he always communicated his love for music, musicians, and audiences. Mr. Nygaard was from Stephens, Arkansas, where his musician parents gave him a broad musical training. When he was very young, he developed the unusual ability to play most orchestral instruments. A Juilliard graduate in piano, he counted the mentorship of Dimitri Mitropoulos and the writings of Sir Donald Francis Tovey as major influences on his work. In 1970, he was in Vienna as teacher, conductor, and pianist for the Beethoven Bicentennial Celebration. He appeared widely as a virtuoso pianist, including at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center and with the Juilliard String Quartet at the Library of Congress. He championed the music of Tovey, Szell, and Mitropoulos, and presented centennial celebrations of Fritz Kreisler, Ernest Bloch, and Georges Enesco. Additionally, he conducted rarely heard operas of Handel, Mozart, and Pergolesi, and performed the complete concertos of Mozart as pianist-conductor.
In addition to founding the Jupiter Symphony, Mr. Nygaard also founded the Westchester Chamber Chorus and Orchestra, directed the Washington Heights YW-YMHA concerts for 25 years, and taught conducting at Columbia University Teachers College and Rutgers University. Mr. Nygaard conducted the Juilliard Orchestra, the Orchestra of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the Naumberg Orchestra at Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center, the New Jersey Symphony, the Korea Philharmonic in Seoul, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa in Mexico, and the Cape Town Symphony in South Africa, where he integrated the concerts. He also acted as a judge for both clarinet and piano for the Naumburg Competitions, and gave private instruction on many orchestral instruments.