Kalena Bovell ’09, music education, has been selected for a yearlong conducting fellowship with the Chicago Sinfonietta.
The Sinfonietta is one of a growing number of orchestras dedicated to promoting diversity within classical music. The program Bovell will be conducting under, Project Inclusion, is specifically engineered to break down the barriers of ethnicity, race and socio-economic status as a means to bringing a more diverse young population into the world of professional classic music.
That Bovell is a woman already makes her a rarity in the male dominated world of conducting.
A study from Mother Jones in 2013 breaks down the numbers in the “boys club” of the conducting world and concluded that not only is there an 80 percent to 20 percent split in men versus women in the world of U.S. conducting, but there are fewer women graduating with degrees in that field.
Bovell, a mostly self-taught violinist, never took a formal lesson until college. She’s currently the director of orchestral studies at the Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut. She has a cool, collected demeanor when conducting, her face relaxed as though she was reading the morning paper. She’s also a published poet.
On top of everything, she takes time to perform in ensembles when she can.
“I think outside of being an educator, it’s important to be performing … it’s a very humbling feeling,” Bovell said. “I don’t do any of this for me.”
All of this is what gives Bovell her drive and the confidence to step up to the podium.
Sinfonietta executive director Jim Hirsch explains that Bovell was chosen as one of two from a pool of more than 60 applicants not just for her inherent skill, but for her spark.
“In Kalena, (from) a couple things we saw in some of her conducting footage we thought she showed real promise,” Hirsch said. Part of that promise, Hirsch said, was her will and composure in conducting.
During the course of her year with the Sinfonietta, Hirsch says Bovell will learn not just about conducting craft at the professional orchestral level, but the management and publicity tasks of the job – the behind-the-scenes work that keeps the machine in motion.
This kind of experience, according to Bovell and Hirsch, sets the fellowship apart.
As for changing the tide of who leads, Bovell and others are raising their hands – and their conducting batons.
Ms. Bovell has been named a semi-finalist for The American Prize in Conducting—college/university orchestra division, for her performance with the Hartt Orchestra in West Hartford, CT. — JT 9/17/15