stylized headshots of Monica Chen and Kelly Lin. Black and white images on a black background

Meet the next generation of Canadian musical leadership

Monica Chen and Kelly Lin announced as Year 3 cohort in Tapestry Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra initiative, now the world’s largest program for women and non-binary conductors.

Monica Chen and Kelly Lin, accomplished Canadian conductors with substantial achievements, will join Jennifer Tung, Juliane Gallant, Naomi Woo, and Maria Fuller in the landmark three-year program. Each conductor will benefit from learning placements and conducting opportunities with orchestras, opera companies and festivals across Canada, including mentorship and training with industry-leading conductors nationwide. 

Women in Musical Leadership is led by Canada’s trailblazing producer of contemporary opera, Tapestry Opera, in partnership with Lead Partner Pacific Opera Victoria and Lead Orchestral Partner Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The three Lead Partners work in collaboration with 23 opera, music, and performing arts organizations across Canada. This pilot program was first announced in October 2020 and launched in 2021 with the support of the Azrieli Foundation.

The Women in Musical Leadership program was created to expand the musical leadership talent pool by championing and fostering female and non-binary Canadian conductors, cultivating the next generation of conductors at the highest levels of musical leadership, and addressing a historic gender imbalance in classical music. By activating a national coalition, the program provides the conductors with a network of experience, relationships, and mentors to develop their careers.

In May 2022,  Canadian women occupied less than 3% of titled conductor positions in major Canadian orchestras. In Canadian orchestras with budgets over 5 million*, there are 37 titled roles for conductors, of which only three are occupied by female conductors (8.1%). Of those three conductors, only one is Canadian (2.7%).*

Chen and Lin will begin their three-year participation in the program in the summer of 2023. They join current participants Jennifer Tung, Juliane Gallant, Naomi Woo and Maria Fuller, whose experience in the program so far includes mentoring with renowned conductors Rosemary Thomson, JoAnne Falletta, Tania Miller and Karen Kamensek; and masterclasses with Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director Gustavo Gimeno and Winnipeg Symphony’s Daniel Raiskin

Tapestry Opera’s Artistic Director Michael Hidetoshi Mori, and Tapestry Opera’s Executive Director Jaime Martino, said in a joint statement:

“We are thrilled to welcome Monica Chen and Kelly Lin to the now six dynamic and talented conductors who represent the future of classical music in Canada. This program is an important way to make our great and geographically large country into a community who can collectively train and give vital experience to new leaders for music in Canada. We are grateful to all participating companies who are supporting these conductors’ journeys.

When we began designing this program, hosting six conductors was a pipe dream. In the beginning, we didn’t know if other organizations would want to become partners; we didn’t know if conductors would find the program or find it helpful; we didn’t know if we would achieve our goal of providing a deeply meaningful and enriching experience for young conductors that would truly help advance their careers in Canada. Looking back on the last two years and getting to add Monica and Kelly, such consummate musicians with so much to offer the sector, we can see the dream becoming a reality.”

A native of Vancouver, Monica Chen is one of the conducting fellows at the Orchestre Métropolitain, assisting Yannick Nézet-Séguin since 2021. She will be the Assistant Conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for the 2023-2024 season and one of three finalists at Domaine Forget chosen to perform in concert with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec two years in a row. Recent conducting engagements include working with Opera Kelowna, Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and the Orchestre Métropolitain. She has participated in festivals including the Eastman School of Music, Domaine Forget International Summer Academy, the UBC Chamber Music Festival, and the University of Oregon Conducting Institute, working closely with maestros Jonathan Girard, Neil Varon, Thomas Rösner, and Bramwell Tovey. She holds two Masters, one in Orchestral Conducting from UBC, studying with Dr. Jonathan Girard and the other in violin performance from Indiana University, studying with Mimi Zweig.

Kelly Lin is a Chinese-Canadian conductor who has gained recognition for her magnetic, captivating, and inspiring interpretations of a diverse range of musical genres, from classical to contemporary. As the founder and Artistic Director of Ensemble Lagom, her performances have been praised for their advocacy of under-represented voices. Kelly earned her master’s degree in orchestral conducting from McGill University, where she was the recipient of the Hnatyshyn Foundation – Christa and Franz-Paul Decker Fellowship in Conducting. She has studied under renowned mentors such as Alexis Hauser and Guillaume Bourgogne. Kelly’s reputation has led her to work with professional orchestras and ensembles across Canada and internationally. She has performed in major music festivals such as Toronto Summer Music, Ottawa Chamberfest, and 21 Stops Music Festival. Kelly’s recent conducting engagements include concerts with Ensemble Obiora, Ensemble Lagom, Hatch Ensemble, McGill Symphony Orchestra, and McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble.

The Women in Musical Leadership’s current partners include Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Continuum Contemporary Music, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Kamloops Symphony, Kingston Symphony, Manitoba Opera, Opera McGill, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, New Music Concerts, Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, Opera Kelowna, Pacific Opera Victoria, Regina Symphony, Shaw Festival, Symphony Nova Scotia, Toronto Summer Music, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Opera, Victoria Symphony, and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. 

“We thank our partners for their enthusiasm and dedication to our joint goal of changing the face of musical leadership in Canada and for their support as we celebrate the achievements of these accomplished women as they take the next step in their careers,” concluded Mori and Martino.

*As deemed by Orchestras Canada. Titled roles include Music Director, Assistant Conductor, Principal Guest Conductor, Resident Conductor, Artist Partner (OM), Artist-In-Residence and Community Ambassador, Principal Pops Conductor, Principal Education Conductor & Community Ambassador.