Australian conductor Carolyn Watson has been announced as one of six professionals selected for the Third Annual Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera. The annual residency programme, now in its third year, is one of only three in the world designed to provide training and career support for women conductors. Female conductors, as well as accomplished singers, opera coaches, accompanists, and instrumentalists with established careers seeking to develop new skills at the podium, are encouraged to apply.

Watson and the other five participants were selected for the residency in November from a total of 161 applicants from 33 countries. Also chosen were Alba Bomfim from Brazil, Mélisse Brunet from France, Lina Gonzalez-Granados from the USA and Colombia, Karin Hendrickson from the USA, and Monika Wolinska from Poland.

Carolyn WatsonAustralian Conductor Carolyn Watson

“It’s always nice to have one’s talent, dedication and hard work recognised,” Watson tells Limelight. “Having already been a part of the 2016 Dallas Opera Hart Institute for Women Conductors as an observer, I feel I already have a taste for what is in store, something which makes me even more excited!”

The residency will consist of masterclasses with Baltimore Symphony and São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra Music Director Marin Alsop, the Dallas Opera’s Principal Guest Conductor Nicole Paiement, as well as Italian conductor Carlo Montanaro, who will make his official Dallas Opera debut with La Traviata in November. The institute will also include career advancement seminars and the opportunity to conduct The Dallas Opera Orchestra in several public concerts.

Watson’s career is already well underway. The recipient of numerous awards – including the Brian Stacey Award for Emerging Australian Conductors, the Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize awarded by the Australian Music Foundation in London, the Nelly Apt Scholarship, and Opera Foundation Australia’s Bayreuth Opera Award (now known as the Berlin New Music Opera Award) – Watson was conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra from 2013 to 2015 and currently serves as Director of Orchestral Studies at Texas State University.

Watson holds a PhD in conducting from the University of Sydney and enjoys an active freelance career in the US, Europe and Australia. She was most recently back in this country in June to conduct the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and the Sydney Conservatorium High School Orchestra.

Watson was also chosen to participate in Southbank Centre’s Women in Music Series in London in January, where she worked with Marin Alsop.

So what does Watson hope to learn from her experiences at the Hart Institute? “From a practical standpoint, there is no limit to the variety of conducting gestures (and indeed the refinement thereof) that a conductor needs in his or her professional toolkit, so to receive feedback, suggestions and advice on my conducting from mentors working at the highest professional level will be a tremendously valuable experience,” she explains. “In addition to that, I am seeking to expand my knowledge and understanding of the American orchestral and operatic environment, something I anticipate I will be able to do via the industry-centred and professional sessions, as well as through personal interaction and conversations with my musical and administrative colleagues, and the professional faculty of the Hart Institute.”

The residency also includes broader professional development opportunities. “One of the distinct advantages of the Hart Institute is the opportunity to receive personalised and very specific feedback about one’s conducting from world-class faculty and mentors such as Marin Alsop, Emmanuel Villaume and Nicole Paiement,” she says. “The programme is also notable for the sheer amount of time spent working with the excellent orchestra and singers, and the opportunity to perform publicly in two concerts. More than that however, the Hart Institute is unique in that it is committed to developing all aspects of the conductor, both on and off the podium. Other professional sessions include guidance regarding navigating the ins and outs of working with opera boards and management, media and PR training, marketing and fundraising.”

What does this opportunity mean for Watson’s career? “I guess… we’ll wait and see!” she says. “However, to be recognised as a promising conductor at an elite level, and one in whom the Dallas Opera has made an ongoing commitment – the programme entails also annual follow up residencies, the first at Juilliard in May 2018, along with continuing professional guidance from TDO IWC faculty – is very positive indeed. Having moved from Sydney to the US some three and a half years ago to take up the post of Orchestra Director at Interlochen Arts Academy, high profile international recognition such as this by The Dallas Opera is another major step in growing and continuing to build my professional reputation in my adopted homeland.”