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Call for applicants: Female Conductor Traineeship

We’re seeking emerging female conductors based in the UK for an intensive new ten-week training scheme aimed at addressing the gender imbalance within classical music.

In recognition of the fact that talented female conductors are less likely to find a way into the industry than their male counterparts, the scheme, which is enabled by the Harewood Young Artists Fund as part of the Opera North Future Fund, provides wide-ranging training and support within the UK’s national opera company in the north.

Two dedicated conducting workshops under the guidance of Opera North’s Music Director Garry Walker will provide first-hand experience of conducting our award-winning Orchestra. Over the course of our Winter 21-22 season, staff and visiting conductors will give the benefit of their experience in one-on-one discussions and lessons, with participants including Principal Guest Conductor Antony Hermus; Sian Edwards, Head of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music and a regular on the Opera North podium; Opera North’s Head of Music David Cowan; Chorus Master Oliver Rundell; and Martin Pickard and Annette Saunders of the Company’s Music Staff.

The scheme also offers unprecedented access to preparations for our forthcoming productions of Rigoletto, Alcina and Carmen in Leeds, from first musical rehearsals with soloists and conductor, through coaching sessions, chorus and production rehearsals, right up to stage and final rehearsals with orchestra and singers.

There will be a chance to get hands-on with the work of our busy Education and outreach departments, assisting with In Harmony sessions in primary schools in Leeds; preparations for the annual ‘Big Sing’ with schoolchildren in the North; weekly rehearsals of our three Youth Choruses and newly-formed Youth Orchestra; and Orchestra Academy weekends and workshops.

The successful applicant will also be musical assistant to Youth Chorus Master and conductor of this project, Nick Shaw, for Youth Opera Project performances of Hans Krása’s opera Brundibár in Leeds and Newcastle in January 2022, and join Antony Hermus to observe and participate in a workshop weekend at the Royal Northern College of Music. There will be additional opportunities to attend additional performances and rehearsals for other concerts and projects in the period.

Garry Walker, Opera North’s Music Director, comments:

“We think that the Female Conductor Traineeship is unique in terms of the breadth of experience that a successful applicant stands to gain, from Opera North’s mainstage opera and orchestral programmes to our work in education and the community.

“By offering invaluable one-on-one mentorship from seasoned music staff and guest artists, as well as the support of the wider Opera North family, we hope to encourage more female artists to see opera and orchestral music as a viable career path, and to ensure that our Company and the industry at large is drawing on the widest range of professional conducting talent, now and in the future.

“We are looking for someone with outstanding musical and communication skills, who may or may not yet have had much conducting experience, but wishes to explore a pathway into conducting by means of this immersive programme.”

The Female Conductor Traineeship will take place over ten weeks of our Winter 21-22 season, between 29 November – 17 December 2021 and 4 January – 18 February 2022, and will require residency in Leeds during that period. A bursary of £350 per week + expenses will be provided.

Applications are encouraged from people from all backgrounds who are currently underrepresented in the workforce, including minority ethnic communities and candidates with disabilities. As a specific role aiming to improve career development opportunities for women within conducting, the role is open to all candidates who identify as female and are based in the UK.

We also welcome applications from parents and would consider making adjustments to the programme as necessary. While elements of the traineeship are fixed to the Company schedule, these are known well in advance, allowing us to plan around them. We can provide support finding accommodation and childcare.

How to apply

Candidates should submit the following to

  • Video footage of between 5 and 15 minutes showing exceptional musicianship and communicative skills (performing or conducting), preferably from a live event
  • A short video introducing yourself and explaining why you’ve applied for the programme
  • Letters of recommendation from at least one, ideally two, professional musicians
  • A CV
  • You should also complete a diversity monitoring form

The closing date for applications is 10am on Monday 9 August. Interviews for shortlisted candidates will be held in the week commencing Monday 30 August.


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