Young women’s conducting course

Friday, 12 May, 2017 - 14:30
Director of Music Katharine Parton
Director of Music Katharine Parton

Fitzwilliam College is inviting young women musicians aged 12 to 15, from state schools,  to a free, pioneering conducting workshop on Sunday May 28. The workshop is offered in collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Society’s (RPS) Women Conductors Programme.

In the last 20 years, there have been only 3 female principal conductors of British orchestras, and this Fitzwilliam College workshop aims to start remedying that by offering the opportunity to young women.

Book your place now for this free workshop!

Open only to state school pupils aged 12-15, the 1-day workshop is aimed at giving young female musicians an introduction to orchestral conducting through hands-on coaching and experience. It will be facilitated by Alma Sheehan, a professional stagecraft coach who works with the RPS Women Conductors Programme, and Katharine Parton, Director of Music at Fitzwilliam College.

The morning session will consist of stagecraft and conducting technique with piano; the afternoon session involves podium time with a professionally-led string ensemble.

Katharine Parton said: “Becoming a conductor is hugely challenging for any musician – and even more so for women, who still make up only a fraction of professional conductors. Experience is often a key barrier for young women, and this workshop will ensure that participants have exposure to orchestral conducting and develop both confidence and practical skills. I’ve heard women as young as 16 say “but I never have”, and therefore that they cannot conduct. By targeting younger musicians – ages 12 to 15 – this workshop hopes to change that before it happens.”

A talk by James Murphy called The Diversity Challenge: the conductor given at the Association of British Orchestras Conference in January highlights the problem. 

There is no cost to participants. The College’s Admissions office is funding the workshop, the first of its kind for this age group. The initiative fits with the College’s charitable aims in relation to supporting widening participation at university, as well as actively promoting its own musical expertise.

Dr Sara Owen, Fitzwilliam College Admissions Tutor said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for state school girls who may never have considered conducting before to come and give it a go. The workshop is designed to contribute to the musical development of the participants but will also help them to develop confidence and leadership skills. Fitzwilliam's Director of Music is very dedicated to widening participation in music at all levels, and we hope that this initiative will help achieve that aim."

Details and eligibility

• Female state school students aged between 12 and 15 years 

• Grade 5 or equivalent in any instrument (including theory); no conducting experience required

• Limited number of full participant places

• ‘Observer’ places may be offered to participate in morning session and form a wait-list for the afternoon (no instrumental requirement for observers)

• Places offered in order of application

• Closing date: 17 May 2017

Please contact Katharine Parton:  music@fitz.cam.ac.uk 

Katharine Parton, Fitzwilliam College Director of Music, read Music at the University of Melbourne, completing graduate studies with a focus on clarinet performance. She studied conducting with Professor John Hopkins OBE through the University of Melbourne and was Musical Director of the University of Melbourne's Apollo Chamber Orchestra, comprised of medical and music students, for six years. She made her professional conducting debut with Lyric Opera of Melbourne as Musical Director for Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène to critical acclaim.

Alma Sheehan trained at the Royal College of Music and at the National Opera Studio. She has run workshops at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music and has worked with young artists at the Royal Opera House and with the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Women Conductors Programme. Alma is Head of Drama for the vocal department of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.  She works with singers, instrumentalists, actors and conductors and last year was invited by the BBC to take part in their series All Together Now which was a televised competition for orchestral conductors.

The Royal Philharmonic Society’s Women Conductors Programme was founded by Artistic Director Alice Farnham, and Andrea Brown, former Director of Music at Morley College.  The key objectives are to enable musicians of the future and to encourage and support women to be conductors of classical music. The RPS workshops are open to women of 16 and over.  

More information about studying music at Fitzwilliam College>>

Fellows in Article: 
Dr Sara OwenMs Katharine Parton