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Call for Applications: Female and Non-Binary Conductor Traineeship

We’re seeking emerging female and non-binary conductors based in the UK for our annual intensive nine-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 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 23-24 Winter Season, Opera North’s Head of Music David Cowan, together with Oliver Rundell and Annette Saunders of the Company’s Music Staff, our Chorus Master and visiting conductors will give the benefit of their experience in one-on-one discussions and lessons.

The scheme also offers unprecedented access to preparations for our forthcoming productions of Albert Herring, Così fan tutte and Cavalleria Rusticana & Aleko 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 involved with the work of our busy Education and outreach departments, including weekly rehearsals of the three ensembles of our Youth Company and the Opera North Youth Orchestra.

2022-23 Female Conductor Trainee Josephine Korda © Tom Arber

Our 2022-23 Traineeship programme saw conductor Josephine Korda sitting in on everything from language coaching to full-scale dress rehearsals, and conducting the Opera North Youth Orchestra.

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.”


The Female and Non-Binary Conductor Traineeship will take place over nine weeks of Opera North’s 23-24 Winter Season, between 4 December – 22 December 2023 and 2 January – 10 February 2024, 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 or non-binary 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 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

The closing date for applications is 10.59pm, Wednesday 14 June.


Interviews for shortlisted candidates will be held on Thursday 22 and 29 June 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 repetiteur and a singer in three short extracts. Please prepare to conduct:

  1. The First movement of Mozart’s Symphony No.38 (Prague) as far as the end of the Exposition.
  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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