6.3 Fellowships and Assistant Conductor Positions

Fellowships and Assistant Conductor Positions

Fellowships and Assistant Conductor positions are regularly advertised by orchestras, educational institutions and cultural associations. Some of the positions are open to applications while others are awarded to winners of conducting competitions. The work included in  such positions vary greatly between different organisations and countries, but here’s an example of what you can expect to become a part of:

Fellowships are much sought-after positions, usually tenable for one to two years. These positions may offer some of the highest levels of training and support available. The position-holder may get the opportunity to work with the region’s professional orchestras, assist and conduct fully staged opera productions or/and assist conductors with college/university orchestral projects, often conducting a piece in the concert. One-to-one sessions and masterclasses with renowned conductors are often also an integral part of such programs.

The position of Assistant Conductor is somewhat similar to fellowship positions but is usually situated in one particular orchestra or with a specific conductor. In the orchestra hierarchy, it is one among many similar positions subordinate to the Music Director and/or Chief Conductor. This is an active training position, allowing young conductors to gain widespread work experience in the professional industry. The contract is typically one to three years. The job likely consists of both hands-on activity and periods of passive learning, and the position-holder will get to work with a diverse range of performers and repertoire throughout the period. As well as serving as a cover conductor in the organisation, the Assistant Conductor may also assist the organisation with auditions, recordings, research and administration tasks. In certain orchestras, the Assistant Conductor role extends to conducting family concerts and the youth orchestra. While flexible, attendance at most rehearsals and concerts throughout the year is usually expected. 

Both fellowships and assistantships are networking opportunities; through these positions, young conductors can meet various orchestra directors, agents, and other conductors. Combined with masterclasses and competitions, these positions are an essential section of the resume of a conductor as they show how much podium experience one actually has. Some employers and agencies may evaluate this listed experience to a great extent. In the end, however, it is your skills, capabilities and competence that will be most emphasized by most employers. Orchestras and other ensembles rely heavily on auditions and video recordings when selecting their conductors. But a diverse and impressive resume may be the tipping point to whether or not you get invited to audition.

In chapter 7 Early Career Conductors, you will find a series of longer video interviews with young conductors at a starting point in their career. Several of the interviewees have experience from fellowships and assistantships. If you are particularly interested in these specific bits, you may have a look here:

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