Carolyn Watson
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Carolyn Watson

Dame Joan Sutherland Fund recipient, Musician/Orchestral Director
Origin: Sydney, Australia
Currently based: Interlochen, Michigan, United States



Carolyn Watson is Orchestra Director at the renowned Interlochen Arts Academy. This posting follows a successful tenure as the inaugural Conductor-in-Residence at Sydney's Conservatorium High School (Australia) from 2011-2013. 
Since moving to the US in 2013, Carolyn has been engaged as a conductor by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and conducted the World Youth Symphony Orchestra. A Fellow of the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival and School where she studied with David Zinman, Carolyn was a major prizewinner at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest. With Opera Foundation Australia's 2012 Berlin New Music Opera Award Carolyn was Musical Assistant at the Staatsoper Berlin for Infektion!, a festival of modern theatre celebrating the works of John Cage.

Carolyn is the recipient of a number of prestigious national and international awards for young conductors. She is the recipient of the 2013 Brian Stacey Award for emerging Australian conductors and was awarded the coveted Sir Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize via the Australian Music Foundation in London. In 2013-14 Carolyn held a Dome Centenary Fellowship from the State Library of Victoria and was in 2012 a Churchill Fellow. Carolyn has also been awarded 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.

In 2010 she successfully debuted with the North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and was one of four conductors selected for Interaktion with musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, also working with Sir Charles Mackerras on his final two productions in this year. In 2009, Carolyn spent a period at the Israeli National Opera, where she assisted on a production of Carmen.

Carolyn has been an active participant in master classes with Peter Eötvös, Yoel Levi and Alex Polischuk. In 2008 Carolyn conducted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra during the Orkney Conducting Course before returning home to conduct the World Youth Day Orchestra on the occasion of the Pope's arrival in Australia.

Featured in a national conductor preview with the Sydney Symphony, Carolyn in 2011, was also Assistant Conductor for the inaugural Australian World Orchestra concert season in Sydney working with Simone Young. During 2011 she was Associate Conductor of the Tasmania Discovery Orchestra and Assistant Chorus Master of Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.

Carolyn holds a PhD in Performance (Conducting) from the University of Sydney where the subject of her doctoral thesis was Gesture as Communication: The Art of Carlos Kleiber.

Who are you as an artist?
I am a musician, an orchestral conductor.
What prompted you to come to the US?
The opportunity to spend time with Marin Alsop, Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a renowned and respected conductor and a role model to women conductors throughout the world.
What did your course/project involve?
I spent time with Ms Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra observing rehearsals and performances. I observed Ms Alsop teach and mentor a number of conductors of community ensembles who had signed up to participate in a professional development project. I also experienced the orchestra's 'Rusty Musicians' project of workshops and performances which involved enthusiastic amateur musicians joining the Baltimore Symphony and Ms Alsop on stage.
What were the highlights of your experience?
The chance to observe Ms Alsop's work, not only as a conductor, but also through the innovative community outreach project that was 'Rusty Musicians'.
Where did you find inspiration?
In each day and rehearsal I attended!
What will you take away from this experience?
I took away a great deal. In particular it was valuable to see how Ms Alsop interacted with her colleagues in the Baltimore Symphony on a personal level because aside from musical knowledge and conducting skill, the art of orchestral conducting is rooted in the ability to communicate effectively with a large group of people and to collectivise their individual thoughts and opinions into one cohesive artistic vision towards which all work as a team.

What is your favorite piece of work that resulted from this experience?
Just witnessing the thrill of a number of the 'rusty musicians' in having the opportunity to be on stage with the Baltimore Symphony and Ms Alsop.

What are you currently working on?
In August 2013 I was appointed Orchestra Conductor at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, arguably the world's finest arts institution offering pre-professional training. The orchestra I conduct comprises some eighty young musicians from around the world who come together and perform some six major concerts every year. The Academy Orchestra also accompanies the annual ballet production, collaborates with renowned soloists, and participates in numerous other performances.

What is your vision for the future?
To continue to make great music at a high level.

What advice would you give other artists aspiring to come to the US?
Do it! In musical and artistic terms, the US really does offer a smorgasboard of opportunities and avenues for potential growth and development which are not necessarily available elsewhere.
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