Esa-Pekka Salonen Joins the Colburn School Faculty

By Stephanie Powell

The Colburn School has just announced the launch of its Negaunee Conducting Program, which will be led and overseen by maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen. Salonen will develop a course of study for a select group of aspiring young conductors, known as Salonen Fellows, and will offer personal mentorship at the Colburn School and off campus with the Philharmonia Orchestra, where he serves as principal conductor and artistic advisor. “It’s been a longterm hope of mine to start a program for young conductors to have hands-on experience,” Salonen says, “not only studying scores and the abstract of conducting an orchestra once or twice a week, but to have hands-on experience with top symphony orchestras around the world.”

The Negaunee program will have students at the podium conducting professional orchestras and gathering unparalleled real-world experience.


“Conducting is a very particular skill to teach; as we know it’s not like learning an instrument where you can go home and practice on your instrument—conductors don’t have that luxury,” he says. “Your practice happens publicly. That’s the biggest challenge of developing a conducting career at the early stages—how to make the leap from conducting the school orchestra or the conservatory orchestra to conducing a professional orchestra. That’s usually very difficult.”

The fellows will also have the opportunity to collaborate with other young musicians from the Philharmonia’s Emerging Artists program; work with the Philharmonia’s management to develop and produce Salonen’s flagship projects; and serve as assistant conductors to Salonen for his international engagements with the Philharmonia, other orchestras, opera houses, tours, and festivals. As a part of the conducting program, Salonen will also present occasional seminars on conducting and career development, will coach students preparing for orchestral auditions, and will regularly conduct the Colburn Orchestra as part of its annual performance series. His first performance with the Colburn Orchestra is scheduled for January 31, 2019.

“My experience as a conducting student was wonderful—I had one of the best conducting teachers in the world, who had a very hands-on, practical approach to conducting,” he says. “Not conducting as some type of mysterious maestro thing, but conducting as a skill or a craft and something that is being passed on from generation to generation—some kind of apprenticeship rather than some kind of mysterious cult. And I firmly believe in that kind of approach—I want to share what I have experienced and what I have learned in these several decades of conducing professionally.”

The Colburn School will seek applications for the program through December 1, 2018, and live auditions will be held in the first quarter of 2019. The first formal class of three fellows will begin in fall 2019. For more, visit