Active as a composer, conductor and bassist, Peter Askim is the Artistic Director of The Next Festival of Emerging Artists and the conductor of the Raleigh Civic Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, as well as Director of Orchestral Activities at North Carolina State University. He was previously Music Director and Composer-in-Residence of the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra. He has also been a member of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and served on the faculty of the University of Hawaii-Manoa, where he directed the Contemporary Music Ensemble and taught theory and composition.
As a conductor, he has led the American Composers Orchestra, Knoxville Symphony and Vermont Symphony, among others, and is known for innovative programming, championing the work of living composers and his advocacy of underrepresented voices in the concert hall. He has conducted premieres by composers such as Brett Dean, Aaron Jay Kernis, Allison Loggins-Hull, Jessica Meyer, Nico Muhly, Rufus Reid, Christopher Theofanidis, Jeff Scott and Aleksandra Vrebalov, and led the American premiere of Florence Price’s Ethiopia’s Shadow in America. His work was featured on HBO and National Public Radio conducting folk-rock legend Richard Thompson’s soundtrack for The Cold Blue. He has collaborated with such artists as Miranda Cuckson, Matt Haimovitz, Vijay Iyer, Jennifer Koh, Nadia Sirota, Sō Percussion and Jeffrey Zeigler, and the bluegrass band Balsam Range. As a composer, he has been called a “Modern Master” by The Strad and has had commissions and performances from such groups as the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the Honolulu Symphony, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, Cantus Ansambl Zagreb and the American Viola Society.
With the creation of The Next Festival of Emerging Artists, Askim founded a festival dedicated to the next generation of performers, composers and choreographers. Founded in 2013, the Festival encourages young artists, ages 20-30, to focus on artistic development, entrepreneurial career strategies and the music of living composers. The Next Festival Composer and Composer/Choreographer workshops connect early-career performers, composers and choreographers in innovative and highly collaborative laboratory for the creation of new works. The Festival has been awarded grants by the Amphion, ASCAP and BMI foundations, and the Copland Fund for Music. Immediately recognizing the devastation of the COVID pandemic on young artists, he began providing free workshops, masterclasses and resources to support young artists through challenging times beginning in March of 2020. Through the Festival, he has presented over 50 Guest Artists, including Pulitzer, Grammy, and MacArthur award winners.
With the Raleigh Civic Orchestras, Askim has pioneered collaborative, multimedia concert events focused on social and environmental justice and has programmed a newly-commissioned world premiere on each concert for the last seven seasons. Themes have included Martin Luther King, Jr.’s North Carolina “I Have A Dream” speech and a work for Virtual Reality and orchestra highlighting the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the Voting Rights Act. During the pandemic, Askim premiered nine new works by composers harnessing latency and technology in innovative approaches to distance collaboration. Under his direction, the orchestras have received multiple grants recognizing diversity in programming, including from New Music USA and the Women’s Philharmonic Association.