Kent Nagano is an American conductor of Japanese descent. He grew up in Morro Bay, California.
After studying in California University in Santa Cruz, then at the San Francisco State University, Kent Nagano began his career in 1977 at the Boston Opera House, where he quickly became assistant artistic director. In his early years, he was marked by his encounter with Olivier Messiaen. Indeed, he conducted the American premiere of Transfiguration and will go on directing this very piece several times in Europe.
From January 1989 to 1998, he was the musical director of the Lyon National Opera, where he succeeded John Eliot Gardiner.
In 2006, he was appointed musical director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (after serving as musical advisor) and of the Bavarian Opera.
On September 6, 2006, he participated in his first concert as musical director and conductor with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. It took place in the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at the Place des Arts (Montreal, Canada), where the first piece performed was Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
He is married to pianist Mari Kodama. They have a daughter, Karin Kei Nagano, who, at age 8, has already won three piano competitions.
On November 7, 2013, Kent Nagano became Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec.