Carolyn Watson (BMusEd '96 PhD '12)

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Sydney Conservatorium alumna and conductor, Carolyn Watson, has been involved in operas all around the world, from Israel to the US. But as she showed last year at the Berlin State Opera, the job can often involve much more than just leading an orchestra from the rostrum. “My tasks in this undertaking were more akin to those of a DJ in a nightclub, albeit with a great degree of mathematical precision and intense concentration,” she told Fine Music Magazine recently.

Watson worked as a musical assistant to an ensemble of just six singers and eight other musicians: two pianists and six gramophone players. Combined, they play music from 300 different LPs. Not your typical opera, but Watson’s efforts earned her Opera Foundation Australia’s 2012 Berlin New Music Opera Award, giving her the opportunity to participate in the project in Berlin and further her studies there.

Watson has just received her PhD from the Conservatorium of Music, and recently earned a Churchill Fellowship to further her experience overseas. The Churchill Fellowship saw Watson travel to the US, where she says the highlight was her time at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Also while in the States, Watson was invited to be a guest lecturer for postgraduate candidates in conducting at the Jacobs School of Music at the University of Indiana. One of the professors loved her PhD research so much, it has become part of his teaching curriculum.

Through her research and conducting experience, Watson has received numerous awards and international recognition. In October 2012, she placed third and was the recipient of two special prizes at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Hungary, which featured over 100 contestants from all over the world. The finals, where Watson conducted the Orchestra of the Budapest Operetta Theatre, were broadcast live on Hungarian television. Watson has also been awarded the Sir Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize by the Australian Music Foundation in London, Opera Foundation Australia’s Bayreuth Opera Award, and the Nelly Apt Conducting Scholarship.

While Watson has worked in prestigious orchestras around the world, she continues to conduct at home in Australia. In 2008, Watson was chosen to conduct the World Youth Day Orchestra when Pope Benedict XVI visited Sydney. Watson is currently the Conductor-in-Residence at the Conservatorium High School, and she has been involved with the Sydney Youth Orchestra, Sydney Grammar School, and the Sydney Symphony.