The Linda And Mitch Hart Institute For Women Conductors Class Of 2018 Announced

The Dallas Opera is proud to announce the names of the twelve distinguished professionals (six conductors, two administrators, and four observers) selected to participate in the fourth annual residency of the Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera taking place Oct. 28 - Nov. 10, 2018 in Dallas, Texas:

  • Sonia Ben-Santamaria (France)
  • Priscila Bomfim (Brazil)
  • Sarah Penicka-Smith (Australia)
  • Audrey Saint-Gil (France/USA)
  • Maria Sensi Sellner (USA)
  • Emily Senturia (USA)

Working to address a long-standing issue at the podium, The Dallas Opera in 2015 launched a unique, new residential program-one of only three in the world-designed to provide training and career support for distinctively talented women conductors on the cusp of major international careers. Female conductors, as well as accomplished women singers, opera coaches, accompanists, and instrumentalists with established careers seeking to develop new skills at the podium, were encouraged to apply.

"At this point in my career," observes conductor Priscila Bomfim, "I could not receive better news than the opportunity to participate in the Hart Institute for Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera, supporting the women who have accepted the challenges of conducting in the opera world."

"For me, the Hart Institute embodies the American Dream," writes Audrey Saint-Gil. "Work hard, dream big, and grab your opportunity tight with both hands when it comes."

The initiative received vital foundational support from the Richard and Enika Schulze Foundation. Naming support came through the generosity of Linda and Mitch Hart.

Additional support for the 2018 Hart Institute comes from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Baker Botts LLP, Cindy and Charlie Feld, Jenifer and Peter Flynn, Susan and Mark Geyer, Holly and Tom Mayer, Betty and Steve Suellentrop, and Martha and Max Wells.

Made possible by an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

Ian Derrer, The Dallas Opera's Kern Wildenthal General Director and CEO notes: "This proven program - by recognizing the contributions of exceptionally talented women in classical music - helps focus vision for conductors, music directors and administrators by showcasing their rich array of skills. Because recognition and vision lead directly to opportunity.

"I was deeply committed to providing leadership roles for women during my tenure as general director of Kentucky Opera," Derrer adds, "and that continues in Dallas. The extraordinary generosity of our underwriters and the enthusiasm of The Dallas Opera Board show that we are on the right track to improve gender parity on the podium."

A total of 51 women conductors and professional musicians heeded the call in 2018, despite even more stringent admissions requirements this year. Applicants from 19 countries included music directors, principal and assistant conductors, concertmasters and music staff from top-ranked symphonies, opera companies, and conservatories.

"Getting into the Hart Institute will be a game-changer for me," observed conductor Sarah Penicka-Smith. "I value the existence of a program which addresses the whole conductor, not just her technique, and I hope this will allow us to develop as many unique models of what it means to be a conductor as there are women to fill those positions."

Maria Sensi Sellner agrees: "I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the team of exceptional mentors and advisors assembled by The Dallas Opera, and to broaden my community of female colleagues, as we work towards equity on the podium."

Adds conductor Emily Senturia, "I look forward to learning from industry leaders and the other talented women who have been chosen to participate in this groundbreaking program."

As is the case each year, four talented U.S. observers were chosen to "audit" the 2018 Institute: Laurann Gilley, Laura Giuli, Amy Owens, and Sara Parkinson.


The 2018 Linda and Mitch Hart Institute will consist of hands-on master classes with the Mrs. Eugene McDermott Music Director, Emmanuel Villaume; TDO's Martha R. and Preston A. Peak Principal Guest Conductor Nicole Paiement and Carlo Montanaro, a renowned Italian conductor who made his official TDO debut last season in La Traviata.

Sessions include career advancement seminars with experienced professionals; topical industry discussions; intensive one-on-ones and networking opportunities; as well as the chance to conduct The Dallas Opera Orchestra in a public concert in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center on the evening of November 10, 2018 (additional details to be announced).

As part of TDO's five-year commitment to each institute "class" of conductors, alumnae will be invited to summer reunions for additional masterclasses with piano and singers, and a series of seminars about the business of music.

Conductor Sonia Ben-Santamaria writes: "A huge thank you to The Dallas Opera's Hart Institute for being the precursor in promoting and nurturing female talent worldwide."

"Although still in the early stages," says Dallas Opera Director of Artistic Administration David Lomeli, "The Institute appears to be having a pronounced positive impact on the field, with Hart Institute alumnae being singled out for important appointments, projects, and commissions in both the opera and symphonic world."

Marc A. Scorca, President and CEO of OPERA America, earlier remarked: "The Dallas Opera continues to expand its influence and stature among American opera companies, as shown by this exciting new initiative.? The company is to be applauded for taking a significant step to remedy the existing gender imbalance on the podium.? This effort complements OPERA America's support of the work of female opera composers and promises to enrich the art form by encouraging more gifted artists to express themselves through opera."


While the Hart Institute began with a focus on supporting talented conductors, the challenges faced by?women opera administrators?are equally daunting.? To address this imbalance, The Dallas Opera last year added a new component to the Hart Institute: Through 2022, TDO will invite between two and four American opera administrators to participate each season.? These women will be selected on the basis of their potential to become leaders of one of America's top opera companies at a later point in their careers.

The 2018 Hart Institute Administrators are:

  • Nicole Eubanks (Lyric Opera of Kansas City)
  • Brooke Tolley (Opera Roanoke)

The selected opera administrators will have access to all group sessions and special sessions during the annual residency in Dallas.? This curriculum includes the role of the board, leadership development, personal branding, media and PR training, effective artist management, and navigating recruiting processes for senior level positions.? To continue to develop their musical skills, which is essential for any opera executive, the administrators will observe rehearsals with The Dallas Opera Orchestra and conducting master classes.? Special sessions on Development, Finance, and Marketing will be offered as well.

One of the goals of the program is to construct a wide network of influential female leaders in the administrative offices of performing arts organizations, both large and small, as well as onstage and in the orchestra pit.


2018 Hart Institute Conductors


Sonia Ben-Santamaria is the first female conductor to be associated with the Royal Opera House Jette Parkers young artists programme 2017/2018. Highlights of her season includes shadowing Sir Antonio Pappano on Shostakovitch's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, leading the Youth Opera Company chorus on Barrie Kosky's Carmen and conducting the presentation of The Monstrous Child. Originally Spanish but French born, Sonia trained at the Conservatoire de Toulouse, the Royal Academy of Music, the National Opera Studio, London, and was subsequently offered a position at the English National Opera as trainee repetiteur and vocal coach. Sonia is the proud founder of Glass Ceiling Orchestra, a socially engaged chamber orchestra which promotes equal opportunities, female conductors and composers. Future engagements include Un Ballo in Maschera for Opera Holland Park.


Priscila Bomfim is Assistant Conductor and Pianist at Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, and was the first woman to conduct in this Opera season. Worked at Bidu Sayão Opera Academy, preparing young opera singers in this theater, Ms. Bomfim also performed concertos with the Orquestra Sinfônica da Bahia, with Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Chile, Youth Symphony Orchestra of Saint Petersburg, Orquestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais, and Orquestras Sinfônicas de Santo André e Cesgranrio, under the guidance of renowned conductors. As a pianist, Ms. Bomfim has performed with International Artists and singers. Priscila was born in Portugal, where she won her first piano contest as a nine-year- old child. She graduated and achieved her Master's degree at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.


Dr. Sarah Penicka-Smith is a freelance conductor and vocal coach. She is Director of Music at St Andrew's College, Principal Conductor with Macquarie Singers, Artistic Director of Opera Prometheus and Pacific Pride Choir, and a partner of Penicka-Smith Arts & Event Management, along with her wife Melanie. From 2005-2017, Sarah was Music Director of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir, where she worked on a range of pioneering projects. She has worked with Sydney Philharmonia Choirs since 2005 as a chorusmaster and workshop presenter, and conducted orchestras that include the University of Sydney Intercol Orchestra, Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, Kuringai Philharmonic Orchestra, and Penrith Symphony Orchestra. Sarah is an alumna of the Symphony Australia Conductor Development Program and holds a PhD from the University of Sydney.


French conductor, Audrey Saint-Gil graduated summa cum laude in solo piano concurrent with her PhD in Greek Philosophy. Her career and operatic passion began at the Théâtre du Capitôle, Toulouse, followed by appointments as Head Vocal Coach of the Ecole Normale, Paris and as assistant conductor to Bertrand de Billy in Vienna.?A US resident since 2007, Ms Saint-Gil was engaged as assistant conductor at NYCO, WNO, Cincinnati and Ravinia Festivals, and frequently with LA Opera alongside James Conlon and Plácido Domingo. She is the French Opera specialist at Philadelphia's AVA and guest vocal coach at the ROH, Covent Garden and Bayerische Staatsoper.?Current projects include conducting La Traviata, Narnia Festival, Italy; Bizet at HGO and recitals in Salzburg, Copenhagen and San Francisco with her partner, Christopher Maltman.


Maria Sensi Sellner is recognized for her artistry and versatility as a conductor of opera, orchestras, and choruses. Praised as "mightily impressive," she was the first three-time winner of the American Prize for Opera Conducting and serves as the Artistic & General Director of Resonance Works Pittsburgh, which she founded in 2013. Recent engagements include the Center for Contemporary Opera, Syracuse Opera, Symphoria, Hubbard Hall Opera, cover conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (assisting Manfred Honeck, Sir Mark Elder), and conducting staff for the world premiere of David Lang's "the public domain" at Lincoln Center. Previous positions include Acting Music Director of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (chorus for the Pittsburgh Symphony), interim faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, and Director of the Akron Symphony Chorus.


Ms. Senturia made her mainstage debut with Houston Grand Opera in 2018 conducting Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, followed by her Kennedy Center debut leading the same opera for Washington National Opera. In the summer of 2018 she makes her West Coast debut leading Mata Hari for West Edge Opera. Emily Senturia will make her Hawaii Opera Theatre debut in the spring of 2019 leading La traviata. After graduating from the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Ms. Senturia joined the HGO music staff during which time she conducted performances of?L'elisir d'amore,?The Little Prince, and?The Magic Flute. Recently, Ms. Senturia has been on the music staff at The Atlanta Opera (Sweeney Todd), Opera Philadelphia (O17 Festival and O18 Festival), and at Wolf Trap Opera where she has conducted two Studio Spotlight programs.


2018 Hart Institute Administrators


Nicole Eubanks is the Individual Giving Director at Lyric Opera of Kansas City where she is responsible for the annual fund and individual giving strategies that center on funding the company's mission of producing transformational opera for the community. Prior to her time in Kansas City, Eubanks held the position of Assistant Director of Donor Services and Special Events at Lyric Opera of Chicago where she managed donor benefits, donor services, key company events, and all operations pertaining the William B. and Catherine Graham Room, the private dining space in the opera. Eubanks holds bachelor's degrees in Music with an emphasis in Vocal Performance and Interdisciplinary Studies in Music and Business from MidAmerica Nazarene University and is a member of the Kansas City Symphony Chorus.


Brooke Tolley is a native of Roanoke, Virginia and was recently named Chief Operating Officer of Opera Roanoke, where she handles all aspects of daily operation including finance, marketing, special events and production management. She is also the newly appointed Director of the opera's innovative Apprentice Artist Program, which guides regional college students to the next step in their professional careers. Brooke holds music degrees from Liberty University and Radford University and is an incoming member of Leadership Roanoke Valley's 2018-19 class. As an opera administrator and active performer, she is passionate about using her unique skill set to connect with close-knit communities, helping to build viable arts and culture programs that create lasting impact. She has been at Opera Roanoke since 2015.


2018 Hart Institute Observers


Laurann Gilley has been on faculty with the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago since 2005, and on faculty at Northwestern University since 2010. She has worked as coach, pianist, assistant conductor, recitative accompanist, and chorus director for companies such as Glimmerglass Opera, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, San Diego Opera, and Vancouver Opera, with conductors including Sir Andrew Davis, Richard Bonynge, Edoardo Müller, Leon Botstein, and Stewart Robertson. As a recital accompanist, she has appeared at venues including Carnegie Hall's Weill Hall, the Chicago Cultural Center, and San Francisco's Schwabacher Series. A regular accompanist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, Ms. Gilley holds degrees from The Manhattan School of Music, The Eastman School of Music, and Southern Methodist University.


Laura Guili is a versatile musician and freelance conductor currently based in the Midwest. She travels extensively to pursue professional opportunities and has held music director and assistant conductor positions with Midwest-based orchestras and opera companies. In addition, she conducts studio recording sessions for film and world music. A horn player and former string educator, she received her MM from Northwestern University and has studied with Kenneth Kiesler and Victor Yampolsky. Passionate about the arts, Ms. Guili furthers her involvement in artistic philanthropy as a seven-year member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Young Professionals board. In addition to her professional successes in music, she works as an actress and model in TV, film and print, currently represented by Modelogic and The Helen Wells Agency.

Amy Owens (USA)

Amy Owens enjoys a diverse singing career in concert work, opera, new music, and alternative pop. She has appeared in concert in venues ranging from the Filene Center at Wolf Trap to Carnegie Hall. Her operatic engagements have taken her to Santa Fe Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Dallas Opera, Utah Opera, Central City Opera, and others. She appears regularly with the New York Festival of Song, and she has collaborated with many composers including Matthew Aucoin, William Bolcom, Bright Sheng, Paola Prestini, and David Hanlon. Her debut album of original music, HAETHOR, was released Spring 2018 to acclaim in the electronica world. She has received awards from the Sullivan Foundation, the George London Foundation, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and the Santa Fe Opera.


Sara Parkinson enjoys a varied career as conductor, vocal coach and pianist. She served on the staff and faculties at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Cornell College and Metropolitan State University of Denver. Recent and upcoming performance engagements include Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Boulder Bach Festival, Colorado Ballet Orchestra and the Colorado Symphony. Sara was Music Director of Boulder Opera Company for their 2017-2018 season where she made her operatic conducting debut with Massenet's Cendrillon followed by Mozart's Così fan tutte. Sara has been a member of Central City Opera Ensemble since 2012 and worked with numerous singers. Sara received degrees from the University of Iowa, New England Conservatory of Music and CU-Boulder. Principal teachers include Victor Rosenbaum, Anne Epperson and Maestro Nicholas Carthy.



Founded in 1957, The Dallas Opera is an internationally-recognized innovator dedicated to the overall advancement of the operatic art form and the support of established and emerging artists, as well as the education and development of new opera audiences in North Texas-and beyond. These goals are achieved by commissioning and producing world-class opera; through ground-breaking institutes, national competitions and topical programs; and by presenting opera in both traditional and non-traditional formats and venues in order to attract patrons of every age, background, educational level, and ethnicity-while engaging with more than 87,000 people in our community each year.? TDO is equally committed to the task of responsible stewardship and is managed with efficiency and accountability, to the highest possible standards.

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