17 December 2009

One of Australia's most adept young conductors Carolyn Watson is well versed in the agreed wisdom that when it comes to classical music, if you can make it in Europe you can make it anywhere.

It is a driving force that has seen her perform and study in, just this year alone, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania as part of a sabbatical year given impetus by winning the prestigious 2009 Charles Mackerras Conducting Award via the Australian Music Foundation in London.

And the gamble, along with the hard work, seems to be paying off for The Con doctoral student in conducting under Maestro Imre Palló.

Not long after leaving Sydney, Watson received news she had been awarded the Nelly Apt Conducting Scholarship, providing her with the chance to study conducting in Israel for three months, based at the Israeli National Opera in Tel Aviv.

Watson had only been in Israel for less than a week when a phone call from Opera Foundation Australia informed her she was the winner of the Bayreuth Opera Award for 2009 - a prize that earned her the chance to study with pre-eminent conductor Simone Young at the Staatsoper in Hamburg.

"I definitely went through a period there when it felt like Christmas every day!" recalls Watson, who is back in Sydney for a short break.

Another confessed highlight of a "mammoth" 2009 was a concert she saw at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester in October - a performance of Beethoven Symphony No 4.

The musicians were the 34 students making up the Sydney Conservatorium Chamber Orchestra, who were playing the first of six concerts as part of the orchestra's first international tour in six years.

"The orchestra played their pants off... they were not just good, they were excellent - I was most impressed as were the audience," comments Watson, who grew up in Wollongong.

"Obviously with such a high profile occasion, expectations were equally very high and the orchestra did not disappoint.

"In my sabbatical this year, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the world's renowned conductors and pedagogues, and ensembles in the Israeli National Opera, Bulgarian State Opera Bourgas, Kammerphilharmonie Graz (Austria), Duna and Savaria Symphonies (Hungary) and the Bacau Philharmonic (Romania).

"Even with such recent experiences in mind, I can honestly say the Con chamber orchestra was among the most impressive and professional of musical events I have had the pleasure of enjoying this year.

"Sitting watching former pupils give of their best under the expert leadership of my mentor, Maestro Pallo, was just brilliant... and my goodness, what a significant transformation that ensemble has enjoyed over recent years!"

Watson, who taught at Sydney Grammar full time until 2008, recalls that the "penny dropped" for her on conducting in mid 2007 when she was studying at the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen under David Zinman.

This academy is acknowledged for one of the world's most elite training programs for orchestral conductors, and "what had really began as a hobby, an interest, was simply too big to ignore," recalls Watson. "I began to wonder what I could achieve if I put my mind to it."

The success continued into 2008 with acceptance to the Orkney Conducting Mastercourse, the UK's premier training program, where she conducted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. On the home front, engagement as the conductor for World Youth Day 2008 proved that Sydney was also beginning to recognize this rising talent.

Watson describes her stint with Simone Young "as an inspiring period... a mix of awe and fear... but Simone was just so supportive."

Next year she will return to Germany where she has been selected as one of only 10 conductors participating in Interaction 2010, a highly competitive development program sponsored by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Watson will also assist Sir Charles Mackerras in a production of The Cunning Little Vixen at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

Contact: Scott Saunders

Phone: 02 9351 1298

Email: 106b0925420c205c45027337230f0c7c32251b6f4a32