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Graduate Orchestral Conducting

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Degrees in Orchestral Conducting

KU offers first class MM and DMA programs in Orchestral Conducting. These competitive programs offer students the opportunity to conduct a broad range of repertoire in preparation for a professional conducting career. The art of conducting is examined from the perspective of gesture and movement, score study/analysis/ear training, and rehearsal techniques and strategies. In addition, students learn a broad range of orchestral repertoire within social and historic contexts. A secondary focus is placed on the operatic and theatrical experience as part of the path to becoming a well-rounded conductor.

The University of Kansas graduate orchestral conducting program offers a highly specialized and intensive pre-professional training experience. The conducting studio is limited to a small number of qualified and experienced candidates in order to provide personalized instruction and ample podium time.
Graduate conductors work regularly with the KU Symphony Orchestra leading sectional and tutti rehearsals, and also act as cover conductor for the Director of Orchestral Activities. Qualified students are offered opportunities to lead the award-winning KU Symphony Orchestra in performances on which occasion they are charged with complete musical preparation for the works programmed. Where appropriate, graduate conductors are offered opportunities as assistant conductor for KU Opera productions. Student conductors also lead the symphony orchestra in repertoire reading sessions including concerti and student composition workshop sessions. The first rehearsal of every concert cycle is also typically led by the graduate conductors.
In addition to weekly lessons and a conducting seminar, the graduate orchestral conducting studio lead and manage all aspects of the KU University Orchestra, for whom this ensemble doubles as a lab orchestra.
The KU Graduate Orchestral Conducting program anticipates openings, including a GTA position in Fall 2021. The GTA position comes with a full tuition waiver and an annual stipend. On-campus auditions for selected applicants will take place in Spring 2021. For more information, please contact Dr. Carolyn Watson, Director of Orchestral Activities.



General Information

It is preferred that all applicants for the Master of Music in conducting degree have a bachelor’s degree in music performance or one year of successful professional-level conducting experience that can be documented. It is preferred that all applicants for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting have a masters degree in orchestral conducting or two years of successful professional-level conducting experience that can be documented. This may include public school or university teaching, directing a professional or semi-professional ensemble, or other equivalent professional arenas.

Deadline for Applications

Music Application: Submit preliminary audition materials (detailed on the Audition tab), and the GTA Application to the Graduate Student Services Coordinator at musicgrad@ku.edu.

Apply online through the Graduate Application Process »

Preliminary Audition Requirements

  • A complete application and the applicant’s resumé.
  • For DMA applicants: a dvd or web link that shows the applicant conducting at least two compositions in performance and two compositions in rehearsal. For MM applicants: a dvd or web link that shows the applicant conducting at least one composition in performance and one in rehearsal. In both cases, the conductor must be in frontal or a partial frontal view and at least part of the ensemble must be in view. The repertoire selected for the video must be appropriate to the musical and technical abilities of the ensemble. Audio should be high quality, if possible. For rehearsal video, it is require that the conductor's speech be audible.
  • A written statement describing your reasons for wishing to pursue conducting as a career, your career goals, and your reasons for choosing KU.
  • A list of three references who can speak to the applicant’s musical abilities, intellectual abilties, and career potential. Include name, professional title, relationship to applicant, phone number with area code, and e-mail address.

Faculty Review of Materials/Invitation to Audition

Upon faculty review of the materials that are submitted, a limited number of finalists will be invited to audition and interview at the University of Kansas on a scheduled audition date. If an applicant has been selected as a finalist, they will be notified four weeks prior to the scheduled audition date.

Formal Audition

The required audition piece for applicants in Orchestral Conducting will be an orchestral work to be determined by the Director of Orchestral Actitives.

The live audition will include three parts:

  1. An interview with Dr. Watson discussing the applicant’s experience and professional goals
  2. A musical skills and knowledge diagnostic including aural skills, score recognition, and knowledge of orchestral instruments and musical terminology.
  3. A twenty minute audition with the KU Symphony Orchestra adjudicated by the heads of the conducting divisions. The audition will begin with a run-through to assess non-verbal communication and gesture. The audition will conclude with the candidate rehearsing the piece in the remaining time.


The applicants will be notified of their status within three weeks of the audition.

Assistantships and fellowships notifications will come from the Dean of the School of Music and Graduate Studies offices.

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