Dr Carolyn Watson is Music Director of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra in Indiana and one of only two women heading up doctoral level programs in orchestral conducting in the United States. A committed music educator, Dr Watson also serves as Director of Orchestral Studies at The University of Kansas and is a guest conductor at the Interlochen Centre for the Arts. She is well known in the industry for inspiring young musicians to achieve orchestral greatness. Dr Watson started out as a violinist and worked with the Australian Youth Orchestra. She played for a year professionally in the pit for Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon in Sydney before moving overseas. She believes the shift from being a good musician to a great conductor is a perfectly natural one, however, notes that a good conductor cannot so easily be made into a great musician. Dr Watson muses that the depth of musical knowledge and feeling coupled with an ability to connect the nuances of the score with the players is paramount. Dr Watson is also deeply committed to continuing to raise awareness regarding the gender disparity in this discipline, with only 5-10% of professional orchestral conductors being female, and she strives to be a role model and mentor for aspiring female conductors.
Dr Watson has been based in the United States since 2013 during which time she has led performances with Amarillo Opera, Austin Symphony, Catskill Symphony, Dallas Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra, Interlochen Philharmonic, Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Chamber Orchestra, St. Joseph Symphony and the World Youth Symphony Orchestra. Recruited internationally as Music Director of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra, she won the 2015 American Prize for Orchestral Performance with this ensemble.
A major prizewinner at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest, notable European engagements include Infektion! at the Berlin State Opera, conducting musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic in Interaktion, a residency at the Israeli National Opera, and assisting Sir Charles Mackerras on his final two productions at The Royal Opera, Covent Garden and Glyndebourne. Additional international conducting credits include the Brandenburger Symphoniker, BBC Concert Orchestra, Budapest Operetta Theatre, Bulgarian State Opera Bourgas, Duna Szimfonikus Budapest, North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Kammerphilharmonie Graz, Kodály Philharmonia Debrecen, Mihail Jora Philharmonic Romania, Savaria Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and in Russia, the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic. In Australia, she has worked with the Darwin Symphony, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Sydney Symphony, Tasmania Discovery Orchestra and Willoughby Symphony.
She is the recipient of a number of prestigious national and international awards for young conductors including the Brian Stacey Award for emerging Australian conductors, Sir Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize awarded via the Australian Music Foundation in London, Opera Foundation Australia’s Bayreuth Opera Award and Berlin New Music Opera Award and the Nelly Apt Conducting Scholarship. She is the beneficiary of support from the American Australian Association’s Dame Joan Sutherland Fund and a Sheila Pryor Study Grant from the Australian Opera Auditions Committee. She is also a Churchill Fellow, and was the recipient of a Creative Fellowship from the State Library of Victoria.
Carolyn holds a PhD in Performance (Conducting) from the University of Sydney where she studied under Imre Palló. The subject of her doctoral thesis was Gesture as Communication: The Art of Carlos Kleiber.
“The thing I love most about conducting is that it continues to challenge me, and ensures I am continually learning. There is no limit to the amount of intellectual knowledge, insight and understanding I am able to cultivate, and similarly, my musical skills are also constantly developing, improving and evolving. I am constantly finding news works, unknown composers, unique recording and performance projects, all of which pique my interest. I am also deeply committed to continuing to raise awareness regarding the gender disparity in this discipline – only 5-10% of professional orchestral conductors are female, and I strive to be a role model and mentor for aspiring female conductors.”