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Call for applications: Female Conductor Traineeship

We’re seeking emerging female 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 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 Opera 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 the winter 22-23 season, staff and visiting conductors will share their experience in one-on-one discussions and lessons, with participants including leading guest conductors, Opera North’s Head of Music David Cowan; Chorus Master Oliver Rundell; and Martin Pickard and Annette Saunders of our Music Staff.

The scheme also offers unprecedented access to preparations for forthcoming productions of Tosca, The Cunning Little Vixen and Ariadne auf Naxos 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 three Youth Choruses and Youth Orchestra; and Orchestra Academy weekends and workshops.

Opera North’s 2021-22 season saw French-English conductor Kay Salomon sitting in on everything from language coaching to full-scale dress rehearsals, and conducting the newly formed Opera North Youth Orchestra at its first concert.

“There is such a gap between music college and the professional world”, says Kay. “This scheme is an invaluable platform for a young conductor to get first-hand experience and knowledge of the workings and expectations of a professional company.

“The traineeship is incredibly varied, from following three productions, to assisting the Youth Opera (which I absolutely adored doing!) to conducting the Orchestra and getting to know such inspiring artists from all backgrounds. It really was a whirlwind, and my only regret is that it could not last longer!

“I think having the privilege of sitting in on the 6-week process of putting together Opera North’s Rigoletto really taught me what the expectations are from all the artists in the room, from the conductor to the director, language coach, chorus, stage managers, assistant conductor, and so on.

“I was not only welcomed, but integrated into the team, which I realise was not easy with so much going on.

“One of the moments I really enjoyed was conducting some of the cover singers’ rehearsal with Martin Pickard giving me ‘live’ feedback. I learned more in half an hour from Martin than one might in a week-long masterclass. Again, it was that first-hand experience that was so rewarding.

“The kindness of the entire Opera North company – making me feel a part of the company for three months – was at the core of what made this experience truly wonderful”.

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

“Building on Kay’s productive time with us, we’re 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 nine weeks of Opera North’s Winter 22-23 season, between 5 December – 21 December 2022 and 5 January – 18 February 2023, 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 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 10am, Friday 10 June.


Interviews for shortlisted candidates will be held on Wednesday 22 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 two short extracts:

  1. Please prepare to conduct the First movement of Mozart’s Symphony No.38 (Prague) as far as the end of the Exposition.
  2. Please prepare to conduct a soprano, plus accompanist for ‘Donde lieta usci’ from Puccini’s La bohème.

We expect the whole session to last around 30 minutes. You will also be invited to observe an orchestral session on the afternoon.


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