The search is on! NACO seeking first Resident Conductor

You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience... Imagine navigating this dilemma in the intricate world of orchestral conducting! With limited opportunities and a unique set of challenges, aspiring conductors face a musical catch-22 in the pursuit of their dreams.

Perhaps none more than today’s up-and-coming Canadian conductors. Of course, anyone pursuing a dream of making it in the arts knows that every step along the way will be steeped in competition. But when it comes to a career in orchestral music, the space for young conductors is more limited than that of any other artist: there is after all only one conductor on stage to lead an ensemble of 50 to 100 or more musicians.

NAC Orchestra (NACO) Music Director Alexander Shelley has long been devoted to supporting young talent and early-career professional musicians in Canada. During his tenure, Shelley has championed orchestral musicians, music librarians, administrators and yes, young conductors, creating opportunities for hundreds of young artists to immerse themselves into the professional environment of a world-class orchestra.

But as a conductor himself, and despite the wide breadth of programs offered by NACO, Shelley could not help but zero-in on one critical gap in the career pathway for Canadian conductors: opportunities for conductors to experience long-term, immersive, apprenticeship-style training are few and far between.

Closing the gap in career progression for Canadian conductors

Enter the NAC Orchestra Resident Conductor position: the new job opening at the National Arts Centre will offer one Canadian conductor a two-year paid position, making this program unparalleled in the national professional development landscape.

The Resident Conductor will collaborate with Shelley, contributing to repertoire development, conducting, community engagement, public speaking, artistic planning, and programming. Furthermore, they will serve as an assistant conductor for visiting conductors and the Orchestra’s titled guest conductors, a roster which includes Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds and Principal Youth Conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser. This immersive experience aims to equip the Resident Conductor with a diverse skill set and the support needed to propel their careers into the top tier of professional orchestral work.

Alexander Shelley commented on the significance of creating a Resident Conductor position, slated to begin during his tenth-anniversary season in Ottawa: “In my 10 years at the helm of the NAC Orchestra, we’ve championed initiatives like the NACO Mentorship Program that offer invaluable work experience for young artists. The Resident Conductor Program adds a new dimension to our commitment. As the NAC carries on nurturing talent and expanding the horizons of Canadian performing arts, this Resident Conductor Program stands as a testament to its dedication to supporting the next generation of orchestral artists.”

Backstage, excitement is brewing at the NAC. “This is a game-changer for Canadian conductors. Obviously, the two-year term and the financial support distinguish this as a unique and valuable opportunity. However, it’s not only about paid work for two years,” says Nelson McDougall, Managing Director of the NAC Orchestra. 

“We’re talking about strengthening the conductor roster for orchestras across Canada and developing export-ready Canadian talent for the world stage. We’re talking about comprehensive and invaluable experience working alongside our Music Director, Alexander Shelley, on the full spectrum of the principal conductor, guest conductor, and assistant conductor duties.”

Applications are open!

Applications for the Resident Conductor position are accepted from February 1, 2024, until March 7, 2024. A selection committee, comprising NAC Orchestra musicians, the music director, and administrators, will review applications and invite four finalists to audition with the NAC Orchestra in the spring of 2024. The successful candidate will be offered a two-year term.

The announcement of the NAC Orchestra’s first-ever Resident Conductor is anticipated in the summer of 2024, with the conductor assuming their role at the beginning of the 2024-2025 season, in September 2024.

Read the complete job description and learn how to apply

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