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Call for Applications: Female and Non-Binary Conductor Traineeship

Emerging female and non-binary conductors based in the UK are invited to apply for our annual intensive 10-week training scheme aimed at addressing the gender imbalance within classical music.

In recognition of the fact that talented female and non-binary conductors are less likely to find a way into the industry, the scheme provides wide-ranging training and support within the UK’s national opera company based in the north. It aims to give opportunity to marginalised genders, including women and non-binary or gender non-conforming people who have experienced misogyny. As we work to address underrepresentation in our industry in an intersectional way, we are also particularly keen to hear from applicants of the global majority.

Two dedicated conducting workshops under the guidance of Music Director Garry Walker will provide the successful applicant with invaluable first-hand experience conducting the Orchestra of Opera North. Over the course of the 24-25 Winter Season, Opera North’s Head of Music David Cowan, together with Oliver Rundell and Annette Saunders of the Company’s Music Staff, Chorus Master Anthony Kraus and visiting conductors will give the benefit of their experience in one-on-one discussions and lessons.

The scheme also offers unprecedented access to the season’s preparations from first musical rehearsals with soloists and conductors, through coaching sessions, Chorus and production rehearsals, right up to stage and final rehearsals with the orchestra and singers.

Additionally, there will be a chance to get involved with the work of Opera North’s busy Learning and Engagement department, including weekly rehearsals with the Youth Company and the Opera North Youth Orchestra.

Emilie Godden, Opera North's 2023-24 Female Conductor Trainee © Tom Arber

Our 2023-24 Traineeship programme saw conductor Emilie Godden taking part in the rehearsal process for Albert Herring, Così fan tutte and Cavalleria rusticana/ Aleko. For Emilie, the experience has been incredibly useful in a variety of ways:

“What’s brilliant about being a part of this scheme is that you get a chance to know people, rather than just observing. Chats in the break give you a sense of the company’s values, how it works and what everybody does.

“The two orchestral masterclasses were particularly invaluable for me. I don’t know of anywhere else where you would get a full three-hour session just for you. I was shepherded brilliantly throughout by Garry Walker and received lots of feedback from the Orchestra, which was really helpful. These sessions are like gold dust!”

Garry Walker, Opera North Music Director, comments:

“We created this scheme in the hope of inspiring more female and non-binary artists to see opera and orchestral music as a viable career path and to ensure that we, and the industry at large, continue to draw on the widest range of conducting talent.

“As one of the country’s leading arts organisations, we are perfectly placed to provide mentorship and a valuable insight into the workings of a professional orchestra and opera company. 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.”

For anyone thinking of applying, Emilie says:

“I’d encourage all my female and non-binary colleagues to apply. I’ve received a really warm welcome here and everyone’s been very open with me. I would thoroughly recommend it.”


The Female and Non-Binary Conductor Traineeship will take place over ten weeks of Opera North’s 24-25 Winter Season, between 25 November – 20 December 2024 and 2 January – 12 February 2025, and will require residency in Leeds during that period. A bursary and subsistence payment will be made.

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

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 via Musical Chairs:

  • 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

If you have any additional needs that we should be aware of to support you with your application, please provide details to

The closing date for applications is 10.59pm, Wednesday 13 March 2024.


Interviews for shortlisted candidates will be held on Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 March in Leeds. 

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an interview and audition with members of the Opera North Music and Planning Departments. As part of this, you will be asked to conduct a répétiteur and a singer in three short extracts. Please prepare to conduct:

  1. The first movement of Mozart’s Symphony No.36
  2. A soprano, plus accompanist, for ‘Donde lieta usci’ from Puccini’s La bohème
  3. The ‘Marche du soldat’ from Stravinksy’s Histoire du soldat

We expect the whole session to last around 30 minutes.


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