Japanese conductor Eiji Oue began with piano lessons at the age of 4, and at 15 commenced with studies at the Taho School of Music. His teacher there was Hideo Saito, the same conductor who instructed Seiji Ozawa, and it was an invitation from Ozawa that brought Oue to the United States for the first time in 1978. Leonard Bernstein took an interest in Oue at Tanglewood, and in Bernstein's last years Oue served as the older maestro's assistant, touring with him and helping set up the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan, one of Bernstein's last ventures.
Not long after Bernstein died, Oue was named music director of the Erie Philharmonic, a position he held until accepting the directorship of the Minnesota Orchestra. It was with Minnesota that Oue made his reputation, partly through a series of excellent orchestral collections for the Reference Recordings label, including Mephisto and Co, Exotic Dances from the Opera, and Ports of Call. Oue decided to step down from his position with the Minnesota Orchestra in 2002, partly to concentrate on other positions held elsewhere — he was named principal conductor for the NDR Symphony Orchestra in 1997, at the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra in 2003, and as music director of the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming. In September 2006, Oue commenced as music director of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra.