The Israeli choral conductor, Avner Itai, was deeply influenced as a child by its rich musical activity, which retained a continuity with the choral traditions brought by earlier settlers from Europe and further developed on the ideological and cultural soil of Jewish Palestine and Israel.
Although he studied conducting at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, Itai began his professional life playing the oboe, becoming principal oboist of the Israel Chamber Orchestra.
It was the American conductor Robert Shaw who inspired him to focus his activities on choral music and conducting. Returning to his kibbutz at twenty-five, Itai became conductor of the United Kibbutz Choir (Hakibbutz Ham’uhad), which toured and recorded an exciting repertoire of a cappella and orchestral accompanied works. Itai founded the Camaran Singers (the first semi-professional Israeli choir) and was its first conductor, and the conductor of the Ihud Choir for more than thirty years. With both ensembles he toured to great acclaim throughout the world (the USA, Europe, and Australia), giving nearly fifty concerts annually. In 1997 Itai founded a new professional vocal ensemble, Collegium Tel-Aviv, which made its debut at the Musica Sacra festival in Nazareth. With this ensemble he performs regularly in Israel and abroad. He is particularly dedicated to his "Songs for Peace" concerts, which tour Europe and feature sacred works of three religions as well as an Arabic choir from Israel. Itai has been Israel’s foremost choral conductor for more than four decades.
Avner Itai conducted most of the leading Israeli orchestras including the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony, Israel Chamber Orchestra and Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra. In 1999, he also conducted the Bochum Symphony orchestra (Germany), as well as a special CD production with the BBC Singers in London that was released during 2000.
Prof. Avner Itai is the head of the Choral activities department at the Rubin Academy of Music, Tel Aviv University. Itai is active in the International Federation of Choral Music (IFCM) and was the musical director of the International Musica Sacra Festival of Nazareth. He was the musical consultant of the tri-annual International Choral Festival - The Zimriya.
Avner Itai's repertoire spans from the early to contemporary music of the great western composers. A great deal of his activity is dedicated to commissioning and performing original Israeli & Jewish music, for which he won several distinguished awards. Itai received numerous prizes for his achievements in the Choral activities and education in Israel.