The Leeds Conductors Competition, a partnership between Leeds International Concert Season and Opera North, will return to Leeds Town Hall in September 2020, following a break of 11 years, it has been announced.

The contest celebrates young British conductors, offering career-transforming opportunities. It kicks off on 8 September, when 16 selected entrants will conduct small ensembles from the Orchestra of Opera North for 20 minutes each at closed chamber music rounds. Twelve successful competitors will go through to public rounds with the orchestra the following day.

The competition will culminate in a full gala concert of music by Beethoven, Elgar and Sibelius as part of the Leeds International Concert Season, on 12 September. The winner of the first prize of £10,000 will be announced at the end of the evening. In addition to the cash prize, the successful conductor will receive a series of professional engagements with leading orchestras.

Leeds Conductors Competition welcomes entrants who are British citizens or resident in the UK, and 35 years of age or under on Saturday 12 September 2020. Full details and an entry form can be found on the competition website. Applicants should complete and submit the form no later than Thursday 9 April, and applicants will be notified by the end of May as to whether or not they have been successful.

This year’s jury chairperson, Tim Walker CBE AM, chief executive and artistic director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, commented: “It is an honour and a privilege to chair the jury of this year’s Leeds Conductors Competition. It is in one sense a forbidding task, for brilliant musicianship abounds, but the special qualities that mark a truly great conductor – character and personality, charisma, connection and communication – are rare.”

The Leeds Conductors Competition’s alumni are among the most illustrious names in orchestral music today. Inaugural winner Sian Edwards went on to become music director of English National Opera; and Opera North’s current music director designate, Garry Walker, won the competition in 1999.

Walker said: “Winning the Leeds Conductors Competition was undoubtedly an important landmark in my career, and I will be forever grateful to those who organised it. It was the only conducting competition I ever entered. The greatest joy is that, almost 20 years to the day after having taken part, I was appointed music director of Opera North, whose orchestra I met for the first time in the competition.”

Admission for audiences is free of charge to the public sessions, with no booking required. Tickets for the gala concert on 12 September, featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No 5, Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Sibelius’s Symphony No 5, are on sale now. The closed sessions on 8 September aren’t open to the public.

Please note, as we write, this event is planned to go ahead. However, the evolving situation regarding Covid-19 means this could change. Keep an eye on the website to stay up to date.



Inaugural winner Sian Edwards conducts the Orchestra of Opera North in Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle.