Dr. Bruce Polay was born in Brooklyn, New York 22 March 1949.
Polay, chair of the Knox College Music Department, has been artistic director/conductor of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony (KGS) and professor of music at Knox where he has taught courses in theory, history, orchestration and composition since 1983. He was recently selected 2010 Conductor of the Year Award for Professional Orchestras by the Illinois Council of Orchestras. He is the award’s only three-time recipient. Polay was awarded the ICO’s prestigious 2008 Cultural Leadership Award, recognizing “a person who has demonstrated sustained leadership that extends beyond his or her own organization and community and who has impacted the state of arts in Illinois.” In 2008, under his tenure the KGS was recognized Illinois Orchestra of the Year for an unprecedented third time! In 2006, Polay was awarded the ICO’s coveted Programming of the Year Award. He has also recently served as composer-in-residence at the Lynn University Conservatory of Music in Boca Raton, Florida, where Lynn University and the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University commissioned his First String Quartet (2007) that was published by Editions Rassel (NY) in February, 2008.
Polay's recent appearances as guest conductor have included performances in Belarus, England, Italy, Mexico, Romania, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and in the US, all resulting in requests for re-engagements, conducting orchestras such as the State Orchestra of Mexico, the Belarussian State Philharmonic, the Chamber Orchestra of the Emporda (Spain), the Arad Philharmonic (Romania), Kharkiv Philharmonic (Ukraine), and Moscow’s famed Bolshoi Theater Chamber Orchestra, performing is many major cities including Barcelona, Girona, Minsk, Mexico City, Moscow, and Rome. He has performed as soloist and recitalist in Europe and in the US, has served as judge for international piano competitions in Canada and Italy, continues to judge the Midwest Young Artists Competition in Chicago, has performed in New York City's famed Carnegie Hall and has been invited to give a conducting masterclass at the prestigious Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory.
Polay's recognition as a composer has been enhanced with awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in ASCAP/Plus Awards received each year since l993. Sparkle for Orchestra (2006), commissioned by Blick Art Materials, received its world premiere with the KGS and later in Chicago. Zimbel Records (NY) released Pictures For an Exhibition: Selected Chamber Music by Bruce Polay on compact disc in 2006. Semi-Suite for Violin, Cello and Piano (2000) was published by Editions Rassel, NY in 2006. In 2005, Golden Oldie (2001), commissioned by the Galesburg Symphony Society, was released on an ERM CD entitled “Masterworks of the New Era.” Suite on Catalonian Folksongs for String Orchestra (2004), commissioned by Orquestra de Cambra de l’Emporda (Spain), is published by Editions Rassel (NY). Solemnity for Brass Ensemble (2001) was given its world premiere with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra brass in Symphony Center in Chicago and was published in 2010. Other published works include Encomium for Narrator, Three-Part Children's Chorus and Orchestra (1986) on text by Carl Sandburg, was commissioned by the Knox College Sesquicentennial Committee in commemoration of the co-founding of Knox College and the City of Galesburg and was published by MMB (St. Louis) the following year. Polay’s works are published by MMB (St. Louis), ER (New York), Kargarice Brass Editions, and Zimbel Press (New York).
Polay has served on the Music Panel for Symphonies, Opera and Ensembles and the “Partners in Excellence” Panel of the Illinois Arts Council, as well as the Board of Advisors for the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, judging in both the International Composition Competition and the National Commissioning Program.
Retired in 2018. Is now kicking back and living the good life.