Opera North is looking for emerging female conductors based in the UK to apply to take part in an intensive new 10-week traineeship, the Leeds-based company has announced. The programme is aimed at addressing the gender imbalance within classical music.

The Female Conductor Traineeship will offer wide-ranging experience and support within Opera North, in recognition of the fact that talented female conductors are less likely to find a way into the industry than their male counterparts. It is enabled by the Harewood Young Artists Fund, as part of the Opera North Future Fund.

Opera North’s Music Director Garry Walker will run two dedicated conducting workshops, providing first-hand experience of conducting the company’s award-winning orchestra. Over the course of Opera North’s winter 21-22 season, staff and visiting conductors will offer the benefit of their own experience in one-on-one discussions and lessons. The list of tutors includes Principal Guest Conductor Antony Hermus; Sian Edwards, head of conducting at the Royal Academy of Music and a regular on the Opera North podium; Opera North’s Head of Music David Cowan; Chorus Master Oliver Rundell; and Martin Pickard and Annette Saunders of the company’s music staff.

The traineeship also offers access to preparations for Opera North’s forthcoming productions of Rigoletto (Verdi, 1851), Alcina (Handel, 1735) and Carmen (Bizet, 1875) in Leeds. The trainee will experience everything from first musical rehearsals with soloists and conductor, through to coaching sessions, chorus and production rehearsals, right up to stage and final rehearsals with orchestra and singers.

There will be a chance to take part in the work of Opera North’s busy Education and Outreach departments. The successful applicant will assist with In Harmony sessions in primary schools in Leeds; help with preparations for the annual ‘Big Sing’ with schoolchildren in the north; attend weekly rehearsals of Opera North’s three Youth Choruses and newly formed Youth Orchestra; and take part in Orchestra Academy weekends and workshops.

The trainee will take on the role of assistant conductor for Youth Opera Project performances of Hans Krása’s opera Brundibár (1942) in Leeds and Newcastle in January 2022. They will also join Antony Hermus to observe and participate in a workshop weekend at the Royal Northern College of Music. There will be additional opportunities to attend performances and rehearsals for other concerts and projects in the training period.

The Female Conductor Traineeship will take place over 10 weeks of Opera North’s winter 21-22 season, between 29 November-17 December 2021 and 4 January-18 February 2022, and will require residency in Leeds during that period. A bursary of £350 per week plus expenses will be provided. As a specific role aiming to improve career development opportunities for women within conducting, the traineeship is open to all candidates who identify as female and are based in the UK.

Candidates should submit a video of between 5 and 15 minutes showing their musicianship and communicative skills, either performing or conducting, preferably from a live event, along with a short video introducing themselves and explaining why they have applied for the programme. They will require letters of recommendation from at least one, ideally two, professional musicians. These should all be sent with a CV to felicity.dunk@operanorth.co.uk. Applicants should also complete a diversity monitoring form.

The closing date for applications is 10am on 9 August. Interviews for shortlisted candidates will be held in the week commencing 30 August.

Garry Walker, Opera North’s music director, commented: “We think that the Female Conductor Traineeship is unique in terms of the breadth of experience that a successful applicant stands to gain, from Opera North’s mainstage opera and orchestral programmes to our work in education and the community.

“By offering invaluable one-on-one mentorship from seasoned music staff and guest artists, as well as the support of the wider Opera North family, we hope to encourage more female artists to see opera and orchestral music as a viable career path, and to ensure that our company and the industry at large is drawing on the widest range of professional conducting talent, now and in the future.

“We are looking for someone with outstanding musical and communication skills, who may or may not yet have had much conducting experience, but who wishes to explore a pathway into conducting by means of this immersive programme.”



Sian Edwards will be among the guest artists sharing their experience with the successful applicant to Opera North’s Female Conductor Traineeship. Here she conducts the Orchestra of Opera North at Huddersfield Town Hall (Justin Slee).