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WNO Conductors Showcase: Conducting Professionals

1 June 2019

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Our postgraduate conducting students had the opportunity to work with Welsh National Opera (WNO) in a Conductors Showcase in the Dora Stoutzker Hall this month.

Stefano Boccacci, Christopher Holley and Heejun Lim directed the internationally acclaimed WNO Orchestra and for all of them it was one of the highlights of studying at the College.

“The orchestra was incredibly responsive, friendly and welcoming, treating me like a professional,” said Chris, who came to the College with a first from Birmingham university, majoring in orchestral conducting,

“Of course, there is always so much to learn and this was an invaluable experience I wouldn’t have got otherwise: conducting an orchestra like this is completely different to working with students or amateur musicans.

The musicians pick things up so quickly and can respond to the smallest gesture or brief instruction.

But at the same time they are strong musicians with their own individual ideas so, while being humble and collaborative, you have to gain their respect and trust so you can drive your artistic vision.”

Chris with WNO Orchestra Leader, David Adams

“You don’t want your first time with a professional orchestra to be during an audition, so for me this was invaluable. I also learnt a lot by sharing ideas with their leader, David Adams, who’s immense experience and kindness helped me get even more out of this amazing opportunity.”

Chris conducting Orchestradventure in Builth Wells. With performances also at Llandudno and St David’s Hall the event reached over 3000 children. Photo: Ted Edwards

Stefano, who comes from Colombia, began studying piano at nine and then studied classical composition and viola, getting his first degree in Orchestral conducting at Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogotá, Colombia.

His dream was to come to the UK to study, and he relishes the cross collaboration that the College encourages.

“My personality matches this College. I love the welcoming, buzzing environment.

I loved it from the moment I stepped through the doors. It is a healthy, friendly atmosphere where equality of opportunities is a motto.

I love the inter-disciplinary element – music, design and drama working together in the same building. It’s a place where I can develop as an entrepreneur, and unleash my artistic projections and ideals.”

Stefano has also been very involved in the College’s RepCo projects, leading a collaboration with Ballet Cymru to create a piece involving 70 artists.


Stefano, at end of second row, right, with the orchestra & dancers of Ballet Evening

Stefano, who is just about to enter the second year of the course, has worked with Mark Wigglesworth at BBC Now on Mahler 1 and assisted Maxime Tortelier in Mahler 5 this year, and is spending the summer at the Vienna Opera Academy.

Stefano conducting WNO Orchestra. Photo: Oliver Edwards

Chris, who has just graduated, has conducted and assisted on five operas during his time at College:

“It’s been incredibly beneficial to work on operas ranging from La Cenerentola to Magic Flute to Sunshine Living, and to learn from great conductors, including Gareth Jones, Alice Farnham and David Jones, as well as from different directors and the rest of the opera company teams.”

Chris conducting postgrad composer Trailland Eltzroth’s ‘Above the Stars,’ for strings, spoken voice & 360 degree pre-recorded soundscapes for Atmospheres Festival 2019. Photo: Kirsten McTernan

They all agree that the course allows them to follow their own areas of interest and expertise.

 “It’s a bespoke course. David Jones is hugely flexible as a teacheer and encourages your personality to form your course,” says Stefano.

“He is totally supportive of our ideas, constantly looking for opportunities for us. All the teachers here nurture us and allow us to create our own pathway.”

Find out more about the Postgraduate Conducting course here.

Feature image of Stefano conducting the WNO Rehearsal in the Dora Stoutzker Hall, Oliver Edwards

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