Tara Villa Keith is in her fifteenth season as music director of the Davidson College Symphony Orchestra (DCSO), where she is an associate professor of music. She is in her ninth season as music director of the Lee County Community Orchestra (LCCO) in Sanford, North Carolina, an orchestra that has been in such high demand that it gave an additional three performances in its 2016-17 season. With the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Keith has served as a cover conductor and pre-concert speaker for several seasons, and will be the premiere instructor for the CSO's Symphony 101 education program during the 2017-18 season.
In response to Ms. Keith's music directorship in the Davidson Community Player's 2015 production of Chicago, the Charlotte Observer  "...[hadn't] heard a better community theater orchestra in a long time."  She has won several awards for her work with both the Davidson and Lee County orchestras. In 2012 and 2013, she was the national second place winner of The American Prize Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award in Orchestral Programming for LCCO's "The Elements" and "An Orchestral Bouquet" programs. She won third place for The 2013 American Prize in Orchestral Conducting, Community Orchestra Division, for recent performances with the DCSO. In conjunction with Artist Associate Jacqueline Culpepper, she won the Metrolina Theatre Association's Award for Outstanding Musical Direction/Conducting for Davidson College's 2011 production of Sondheim's Into the Woods.
Outside of Davidson, Ms. Keith has enjoyed conducting orchestras throughout the south and northeast, most recently performing with the North Carolina Eastern Regional String Orchestra. She conducted three world premieres of chamber works at the 2012 Atlantic Music Festival in Maine. In 2009 and 2010, she served as an assistant conductor for the Hot Springs Music Festival in Arkansas. After winning the International Conducting Competition in 2008, Tara guest conducted the Macon Symphony Orchestra in Georgia. Other guest conducting engagements include performances with the Union Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina, Capitol Opera Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Opera at USC, South Carolina. Also in the Carolinas, she has worked with the Durham Symphony Reading Orchestra, the Philharmonia of Greensboro, the Palmetto Youth Orchestra, and the Lake Norman Orchestra.
Abroad, Ms. Keith was a conducting apprentice in the 40th Campos do Jordão Winter Music Festival, Brazil, where she won second place in the Camargo Guarnieri Conducting Competition. As a winner of the 2009 Interaktion Selection Contest with the Brandenburger Symphoniker, she worked with Das Kritische Orchester, an orchestra composed of members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. In Bulgaria, Tara won the first Varna International Conducting Competition in 2007 and returned the following year to guest conduct the Vidin State Philharmonic. Three years prior, she received a grant from the Global Partners Project to guest conduct the New Symphony Orchestra of Sofia, Bulgaria. She has also worked with the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic in the Czech Republic as a 2008 League of American Orchestras Women Conductors Grant recipient.
Ms. Keith's mentors include Brian Norcross, Gerardo Edelstein, and Donald Portnoy. Conductors with whom she has studied in workshop and festival settings include Marin Alsop, JoAnn Falletta, John Farrer, Adrian Gnam, Samuel Jones, Daniel Lewis, Gustav Meier, Jorge Mester, Larry Rachleff, Richard Rosenberg, Jonathan Schiffman, Donald Schleicher, Benjamin Shwartz, Carl St. Clair, Kate Tamarkin, Donald Thulean, and Victor Yampolsky among others.
Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Ms. Keith grew up studying percussion and piano at the Preparatory of the Peabody Conservatory. She holds degrees from Franklin & Marshall College, the Pennsylvania State University, and the University of South Carolina. Off of the podium she is an active competitive ballroom dancer, training in international Latin and standard styles with JR Hipsky at Dynamic Ballroom in Huntersville. When time permits, she also enjoys practicing yoga, golfing, kayaking, freelancing as a percussionist, playing with her many cats, and antiquing with her horn-playing husband, Eric.