We’re very happy to announce that French-British conductor Kay Salomon will join us at the end of the year to take part in our new Female Conductor Traineeship.
In recognition of the fact that talented female conductors are less likely to find a way into the industry than their male counterparts, the initiative offers wide-ranging experience and support within the UK’s national opera company in the north. It is enabled by the Harewood Young Artists Fund as part of the Opera North Future Fund.
Kay was awarded her Master’s in Conducting from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama this summer. “Young conductors can feel rather vulnerable when finishing music college, but being offered this traineeship is a real confidence booster”, she says. “I cannot express how excited I was to be selected for the traineeship. I am incredibly grateful to Opera North for being so committed to supporting young female conductors and offering such a unique opportunity.”
Born in Périgueux, France, Kay began her musical career playing French horn and piano, and it was during her piano studies at the Royal Northern College of Music that she realised how much she wanted to conduct: “I had conducted a composition of mine during my A-levels and had been fascinated ever since. During my time in Manchester, I would avidly attend symphonic concerts every week, feeding my curiosity about the repertoire, and I suppose it was my critical and musical instinct that drew me to conducting.
“I always felt that I also had something to say, and often believed in rather different interpretations to the ones I saw performed… but it is the emotion stemming from the music, whether from symphonic music, operas or ballets, that inspired me to conduct: I just wanted to be part of this music-making too.
“After finishing my degree in piano, I set off to Lisbon and the Netherlands to receive coaching in conducting, and was offered a position as the conductor to a student orchestra in Münster for two years. During that time, it was actually the coaching I received on the Sorell Women Conductors Programme with Sian Edwards at the Royal Academy of Music which contributed to getting me onto my master’s course.”
Returning to conduct the Orchestra of Opera North in Shostakovich, Gershwin and Mussorgsky in Huddersfield on 2 December, Sian Edwards will be reunited with Kay for one of a series of one-to-ones as part of the ten-week Traineeship.
“I am eagerly looking forward to learning from the wonderful conductors, musicians and casts over the coming months”, Kay continues. “It will be a real treat to be a part of Opera North’s buzzing activities, rehearsals, and assisting on Brundibár with the Opera North Youth Company in January.”
The scheme also includes two dedicated workshops under the guidance of our Music Director Garry Walker, providing first-hand experience of conducting the Company’s award-winning Orchestra. “We had a fantastic level of interest shown in the Traineeship, and from a tremendous breadth of experience”, says Garry. “It’s never an easy task whittling down so much talent to just one person. Indeed, it galvanised my opinion that this should be an ongoing position. We hope that this initiative will 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.”
“Kay showed all the qualities that we thought would be required, and we hope she will be able to develop her existing skills further within the Opera North family.”
“I cannot emphasise enough how valuable these initiatives are to a young, and female conductor”, Kay confirms. “I personally feel that it is thanks to the Sorell course, a recent Jette Parker Young Artist course for female conductors at the Royal Opera House, and inevitably my master’s course that gave me the tools to get onto this traineeship. These schemes show that there is faith in female conductors, and there is the desire to bridge the gap in terms of opportunities offered between men and women.
“This is a real opportunity to develop as a conductor, and I cannot wait for this inspirational experience!”
Kay will join us on 29 November, observing preparations for the Company’s forthcoming productions of Rigoletto, Alcina and Carmen 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.
Her work with our busy Education department will involve assisting with In Harmony sessions in primary schools in Leeds; preparations for the annual ‘Big Sing’ with schoolchildren in the North; weekly rehearsals of Opera North’s three Youth Choruses and newly-formed Youth Orchestra; and Orchestra Academy weekends and workshops.
Opera North is a signatory of the Keychange initiative, a global movement working towards gender equality in the music industry. On the concert platform, the Orchestra of Opera North has recently claimed UK debuts for Dalia Stasevska – now Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra – and Ruth Reinhardt, Assistant Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. In December, the young Italian-Turkish conductor Nil Venditti will lead the Orchestra and soprano Máire Flavin in traditional Viennese New Year celebrations in Huddersfield and Hull.