Brian McMaster is one of the most prominent and experienced figures on the British cultural scene. Born in Hitchin in Hertfordshire, he qualified as a lawyer after studying in Bristol and Strasbourg. In 1967 he took part in the Arts Council of Great Britain’s first cultural management programme and was a member of the International Classical Division of EMI Records for five years. He later moved to English National Opera, where he was responsible for artistic planning. In 1976 he was appointed managing director of Welsh National Opera, where he held the position for 15 years. He was also artistic director of Vancouver Opera from 1984 to 1989. In 1991 he took over the management of the Edinburgh International Festival and was its director until October 2006.
Brian McMaster published his report Supporting Excellence in the Arts: from Measurement to Judgement on behalf of the British Secretary of State for Culture in January 2008, investigating how artistic excellence can encourage wider and deeper audience engagement with the arts and how to establish a light-touch, non-bureaucratic method of judging the quality of the arts in the future.
Brian McMaster has received several honorary doctorates from leading British universities and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1987, before being knighted in the New Year Honours List in 2003. He is a founding member of the jury of the former Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award, which now continues as the Herbert von Karajan Young Conductors Award of the Salzburg Festival.