A native of New York, Kenneth Kiesler studied at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, the Aspen Music School in Colorado, and the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy. At twenty-three he was the youngest conductor of a full production in the history of the prestigious Indiana University Opera Theater. He was accepted into the Leonard Bernstein American Conductors Program; won the silver medal at the 1986 Stokowski Competition at Avery Fisher Hall; received the Helen M. Thompson Award (in 1988); and, in 1990, was one of four American conductors selected to conduct the Ensemble Intercontemporain in sessions with Pierre Boulez during the Carnegie Hall Centenary. Kiesler was music director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra for twenty years, becoming conductor laureate at the end of the 1999–2000 season, and was also music director of the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra. He has appeared as guest conductor with many ensembles, including the National Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Jerusalem and Haifa in Israel, and has led premieres of works by contemporary composers such as Evan Chambers and Steven Stucky, among others. Since 1995, he has held the positions of professor of conducting and director of university orchestras at the University of Michigan School of Music. Kiesler is also the founder and director of the Conductors Retreat at Medomak, Maine.