American Academy of Conducting at Aspen

Robert Spano, director


Asadour Santourian, program administrator

The American Academy of Conducting at Aspen (AACA) provides participants with intensive conducting training with a skilled orchestra, assists them in gaining podium experience, and supports each individual’s development as a conductor. The heart of the Academy is the opportunity for 12-14 conductors to work with an orchestra of experienced musicians, and to play as a member of that orchestra under the baton of program colleagues – all under the guidance of master conductors. Participants learn by conducting a wide range of repertoire and types of performances, including orchestral concerts, concerto performances, opera master class arias and scenes, repertoire readings, and composer readings.

Last summer, Music Director and AACA Director Robert Spano, along with 2013 visiting guest faculty Larry Rachleff, were joined by guest conductors Nicholas McGegan, Leonard Slatkin, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Federico Cortese, Christian Arming, and others in leading sessions.

The Academy brings to each participant the national attention that is critical to establishing a career. Established conductors, orchestra managers, artist managers, music critics, and other music executives may come to Aspen each summer to spotlight the brightest emerging talent.

The Program

Each AACA participant will receive a full fellowship. The participant will be active as a conductor in front of the fifty-five member Academy Orchestra, with the goal of permitting each conductor at least thirty minutes of podium time in at least six of the Academy’s eight weeks. When off the podium, most conductors will play an instrument in the orchestra; however, a limited number of conductor spaces are available to pianists and non-orchestral instrumentalists.

Participants will rehearse and conduct concerts of orchestral and concerto repertoire, and opera master class scenes and/or arias. They share repertoire-reading sessions and rehearse and perform contemporary scores. All sessions are videotaped for individual use and artist-faculty review.

Beyond the podium, the Academy offers all participants an extensive curriculum covering both musical and extra-musical elements, including a set of intensive sessions on score analysis.

Academy participants are expected to attend rehearsals and concerts of the AMFS’s other three orchestras, and are encouraged to organize their own performances. They also are welcome to take advantage of the full curriculum of AMFS classes. While the Academy program is intensive and demanding, averaging seven orchestral services each week, the AMFS is committed to ensuring that participants have adequate time for study and rest.

Auditors may be admitted and will be welcome at all sessions, but will not conduct the orchestra. Financial assistance is not available for auditors.

Fellowships are available for instrumentalists to play as regular members of the Academy Orchestra. Interested applicants should follow the guidelines noted within their specific instrument.

American Academy of Conducting at Aspen Program Components

  • Conducting the Academy Orchestra in readings, rehearsals, and performance
  • Coaching with master conductors
  • Evaluation with videotape of the conducting sessions
  • Observation by and meeting with AMFS guest conductors
  • Technique classes
  • Periodic classes in score reading and analysis and score preparation

Recognition Opportunities

Academy participants are eligible to be chosen for three prestigious opportunities:

  • One Academy participant may be awarded the Aspen Conducting Prize, which carries with it the invitation to return to Aspen the following summer as assistant conductor. For 2013, the prize is awarded to Nikolas Nägele.
  • One Academy participant may be awarded the Robert J. Harth Conductor Prize, which carries with it the invitation to return to Aspen the following summer as an Academy Conductor on fellowship. For 2014, the prize is awarded to Roderick Cox.
  • One Academy participant may be awarded the James Conlon Conductor Prize, which carries with it the invitation to return to Aspen the following summer as an Academy Conductor on fellowship. For 2014, the prize is awarded to Andreas Vogelsberger. The James Conlon Conductor Prize is the AACA Fellowship in Honor of James Conlon, given by Mrs. Mercedes T. Bass.


All students are encouraged to participate in the music-related courses offered by the AMFS artist-faculty and staff. In addition, the AMFS offers courses in body awareness, including Alexander Technique, and solfège classes.

How to Apply

Click here to apply for admission and submit your audition and required materials.

  • Resume required
  • Two letters of recommendation encouraged but not required

Audition Requirements

  • Video recording showing recent conducting experience ideally demonstrating a varied selection of repertoire; showing front view of the conductor from a reasonable distance
  • Video recording of instrumental performance, approximately fifteen minutes in length
  • Both conducting and instrumental recordings must have been made within three months of application
  • For all recordings, provide track listings along with date of performance for each

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