Music Director

Carolyn Watson

Australian conductor Carolyn Watson has been based in the United States since 2013 during which time she has led performances with the Austin Symphony, Catskill Symphony, Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra, Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Chamber Orchestra and 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, also collaborating with soloists including Mark O’Connor and Alexandre Tharaud during her tenure. Carolyn continues to enjoy an ongoing association with Interlochen as conducting faculty at Interlochen Arts Camp and for Interlochen Online.

An experienced conductor of opera, 2021 sees Carolyn lead Hansel and Gretel for Amarillo Opera and Fellow Travelers at Des Moines Metro Opera, along with a production of As One. Most recently she conducted ‘And Still we Dream’ for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, her third engagement for the Lyric in as many years. This production was featured in the Emmy-Award winning PBS documentary, Higher Octaves: Leading Women in the Arts. Carolyn was engaged to conduct the world premiere of Gordon Getty’s opera at Festival Napa Valley, and in 2017 Carolyn was one of six conductors selected for the Hart Institute for Women Conductors, where she led the Dallas Opera Orchestra in two public performances.

A committed music educator, Carolyn currently serves as Director of Orchestral Studies at The University of Kansas whilst continuing to enjoy an active freelance career throughout the US, Europe and Australia. She has conducted orchestras internationally including the Brandenburg Symphony, BBC Concert Orchestra, Budapest Operetta Theatre, Bulgarian State Opera Bourgas North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Kodály Philharmonic, Savaria Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and in Russia, the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic. Other notable European credits include Musical Assistant at the Staatsoper Berlin for Infektion!, a festival of modern theatre celebrating the works of John Cage, resident at the Israeli National Opera, and assistant to Sir Charles Mackerras on his final two productions at The Royal Opera, Covent Garden and Glyndebourne. She has participated in master classes with Marin Alsop, Peter Eötvös, Yoel Levi, Martyn Brabbins and Alex Polishchuk and conducted musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic in Interaktion.

A major prizewinner at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest, Carolyn Watson was a Fellow of the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival where she studied with David Zinman. Carolyn 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.