- Director of Orchestral Activities
Carolyn Watson currently serves as Associate Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Studies at The University of Kansas whilst continuing to enjoy an active freelance career throughout the US, Europe and Australia. Originally from Australia, she 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, Interlochen Philharmonic, Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Chamber Orchestra, St. Joseph Symphony and World Youth Symphony Orchestra. Carolyn is also the Music Director of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra in Indiana. 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. In 2019 she 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 in two public performances.
A major prizewinner at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest, notable European credits include Infektion!, a festival of modern theatre celebrating the works of John Cage at the Staatsoper Berlin, 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.
Carolyn was a Fellow of the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival where she studied with David Zinman, and has participated in master classes with Marin Alsop, Peter Eötvös, Yoel Levi, Martyn Brabbins and Alex Polishchuk. She 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, the Sir Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize 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. In 2013-14 Carolyn held a Dome Centenary Fellowship from the State Library of Victoria and was in 2012 a Churchill Fellow.
Carolyn has enjoyed invitations as guest professor and/or clinician from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Kansas Wesleyan University, Pacific Lutheran University, Southwestern University, University of Louisville, Washington and Lee University, Australian Band and Orchestra Directors Association, and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where she enjoys an ongoing association. She has presented internationally at Oxford University’s Conducting Studies Conference, The First International Conference on Women’s Work in Music, International Kodály Symposium and The Arts in Society Conference and at national conferences of The Conductor’s Guild and College Orchestra Directors Association. She has had articles published in a variety of peer-reviewed publications including Music and Practice, Bulletin of the International Kodály Society, DSCH Journal, CODA Journal, Resonate Journal, and the Instrumentalist.
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. Carolyn is also in demand as a guest lecturer, adjudicator, presenter and clinician throughout the United States and abroad.