Women Conductors - New Opportunities

We have recently announced several new opportunities central to our acclaimed RPS Women Conductors programme. Applications for these closed in September 2023, but we have kept this information here for reference.

If you would like this information in a different format, for accessibility reasons, please call us on 020 7287 0019 or use our online contact form by clicking this link, and we will do our best to help.

Since 2016, we have proudly presented a range of opportunities for women to further their skills at conducting. Founded by conductor Alice Farnham, our Women Conductors courses (often called ‘WoCo’ for short) have become the UK’s foremost practical initiative addressing gender inequality on the podium, with over 500 women participating to date.

We are now welcoming applications for several new WoCo opportunities from women, trans and non-binary conductors, who as yet are significantly underrepresented in the profession. Please note, these opportunities are not for beginners but those who already conduct to some extent as part of their musical life. Please read in detail about each opportunity for further information. Given the specific criteria of this particular offer, we are pleased to share some links to other developmental conducting opportunities which may be of interest to you.


This is our highest-level experience, delivered at The Glasshouse International Centre for Music (formerly Sage Gateshead) in partnership with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, made possible with kind support from North Music Trust.

The opportunity is for a cohort of women, trans and non-binary conductors, based in the UK and Ireland, each already managing to amass considerable professional orchestral conducting work and make this their primary vocation. Strictly, you should have completed any formal studies, though we are willing to consider exceptional postgraduates and junior fellows.

This is principally a chance for participants to spend quality rehearsal time with one of the UK’s foremost professional orchestras, and reflect together on the principles of fruitful interaction between conductors and orchestras.

Twice yearly, some of the cohort (usually four individuals) will gather with the orchestra in Gateshead for two days, in January 2024 and May 2024, then likely January 2025 and May 2025.

On each visit, participants will spend quality time conducting the orchestra, with coaching from Alice Farnham. They will also spend time reflecting on progress with players, sharing feedback and ideas in a positive and encouraging environment. Between visits, the cohort will have some contact time – usually on Zoom – with Alice and with select RNS players, and residual career support from RPS and RNS staff.

This experience is free for participants, and the RPS will cover standard travel in the UK and Ireland and two nights of accommodation (plus breakfast) in Gateshead for each trip. Participants themselves will need to cover the costs of other meals and provisions.

We first offered this opportunity to a cohort in 2022-3, which has proven highly rewarding for all involved. Several of that cohort will stay on for further sessions, whilst others of them will move on to other professional opportunities. We therefore expect to recruit 3 to 4 conductors to join the cohort, and – availability permitting – they will all likely have the opportunity to visit Gateshead twice.

To give you a fuller picture of this experience, we invite you to watch the short film linked here.


This is for those not yet at the high level required for our ‘Excel’ course, but who nonetheless conduct as part of their musical life, and are looking to evolve their acumen conducting instrumental ensembles as an integral element of their career. We are offering two short courses intended to empower you, fuel your progress, and connect you with like-minded creative allies. We will likely prioritise applicants seeking such a boost as they make their way in the profession though we are willing to consider exceptional students aged 19 and above. Both courses will be coached by Alice Farnham and both are for women, trans and non-binary conductors, based in the UK and Ireland.

The first will be a one-day course for a group of six conductors in Cardiff, held at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, from 10am to 5pm on Saturday 9 December. It will involve a chamber ensemble of local professional string players. This experience is free for participants and, depending on where you are based in the UK or Ireland, the RPS will offer a contribution towards both standard travel and one night of accommodation in Cardiff on Friday 8 December if required, as we do not want such expenses to hinder anyone from applying. This course is made possible with kind support from the Colwinston Charitable Trust.

The second of these will be a two-day course for a group of eight conductors in London, held at St Paul’s Cathedral School, from 10am to 5pm on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 April, and attendance at both days will be required. It will involve a chamber ensemble of string players drawn from professional London orchestras. This experience is free for participants and, depending on where you are based in the UK or Ireland, the RPS will offer a contribution towards both standard travel and accommodation in London for one or two nights if required, as we do not want such expenses to hinder anyone from applying.

In your application form, you can indicate if you would like to be considered for the Cardiff or London course, or both. The opportunity they present is essentially the same, so candidates will not be selected to do both. Please note we expect to film parts of the London course for our own promotional purposes, and invite prospective funders to it, so you should only apply for this if you consent to such elements. We will take photographs at both courses.


Applicants for any of these experiences are asked to complete our online application form linked below. In it you should state whether you are applying for ‘Excel’ in Gateshead, or ‘Advance’ in Cardiff and/or London. You should not apply for both ‘Excel’ and ‘Advance’, choosing which best reflects your current level of conducting.

In your application, you are asked to:

  • Upload a CV of no more than one page detailing your professional conducting experience and training. This should conclude with details of two referees who can vouch for your accomplishments: name, role and contact details (ideally email and/or phone) for each. Your CV should be saved as a PDF (not a Word document) and titled: Forename Surname CV
  • Provide links* for up to two filmed excerpts
    of you conducting contrasting pieces, in concerts or rehearsals. We will only be able to watch ten minutes maximum of your footage so in the application form you should specify particular passages as relevant within each excerpt. These may be filmed on a smartphone (ideally landscape not portrait) and we do not expect high-quality audio. Where possible, the footage should present a clear and close view of your face, arms and upper body, but the ensemble you are conducting should also be visible at some point.
  • A link* to a short film of yourself
    talking to camera, not exceeding 90 seconds, telling us what you feel you would gain from this experience at this stage in your career, and what aspects of your musical and professional development you feel this opportunity could help you advance. This need not be high-quality and we welcome it being filmed on a smartphone.

*Your filmed excerpts and short film should be submitted as a link to YouTube, Vimeo or equivalent platforms, and the footage should remain visible there till at least the end of October 2023. We regret we cannot accept footage in any other format. You may send links to films that are privately listed online if you prefer, but please ensure to include any passwords with your links in the application form. If you are the standard required for the courses but anticipate you may not be able to supply any of the materials required, please do contact us to discuss your circumstances further.

The form also invites you to complete some standard inclusivity monitoring questions which should only take a moment. We are committed to ensuring that everyone feels welcome to apply for RPS opportunities, and to monitoring our progress so that prospective candidates reflect a diverse, multicultural society. The answers you give will be reviewed entirely separately from your application, and we thank you for playing your part in this. You can read more about our inclusivity policy on our website.

The closing date for applications is 11am on Thursday 14 September 2023 and we cannot in any circumstances accept late applications.

Applications will be reviewed by Alice Farnham and members of the team at the RPS and Royal Northern Sinfonia. We aim to notify all applicants of outcomes for each opportunity by the end of October 2023. Given these experiences are only for a few participants, please do not be disappointed if your application is not successful.

As we are expecting a significant number of applications, we will be limited in what feedback we can offer to all those who applied. Nonetheless, we recognise the value of this and will do our best in the consequent weeks to share with you any feedback we can from the panel. If you would like to receive this, you are welcome to email admin@philharmonicsociety.uk with the subject heading:

Women Conductors feedback – Forename Surname

Owing to various commitments of our small team, it can sometimes be several weeks before we can send you feedback, so thank you for your patience.

If you have any queries about these opportunities not addressed in these guidelines, you are warmly welcome to email us at admin@philharmonicsociety.uk or call us for an informal chat on 020 7287 0019.

Thanks so much for your interest, and for helping us spread the word about these opportunities to anyone you know who may be eligible and benefit from the experience.

‘The opportunities and support I’ve received from the RPS over the years have transformed my career as a conductor. So many musical doors have been opened to me thanks to the guidance and support from the RPS.’
Helen Harrison, conductor

    We are very grateful to North Music Trust for its support of our Excel course, and the Colwinston Charitable Trust for its support of our Advance course in Cardiff.