The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

Graduate wins conducting competition

Courtesy of SMU Meadows

(Courtesy of SMU Meadows )

SMU graduate student Michelle Merrill has raised the bar for future student conductors.

Merrill, who is pursuing a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting, was named one of four winners of the ninth annual International Conductors Workshop and Competition held in January.

The competition and workshop, held in Macon, Ga., united 13 international participants with three days of conducting, rehearsing and learning from esteemed conductors and music professors from across the country.

The three other winners of the competition were Nove Deypalan from the Philippines, Karin Hendrickson from England and Nestor Jaenz from Honduras.

Merrill brought music of her choice to teach the orchestra, including compositions by Tchaikovsky.

She focused on teaching and conducting the music without being overbearing.

Each participant rehearsed only twice with members of various orchestras from Georgia.

The participants then presented a piece of music at the final concert, held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Merrill performed Debussy’s Prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun.”

She said one aspect that excited her about this conducting opportunity was “the opportunity to get in front of different groups of people, especially mixed orchestras” whose ages and experience levels varied.

After the performance, the faculty instructors and orchestra members voted on the winners.

“Everyone thinks the conductor is so powerful, but really we are powerless. We can only influence the orchestra and make them sound their best,” Merrill said.

Thanks to the award, Merrill will return to Georgia in September to guest conduct with a local symphony.

The award does not just give her a singular opportunity to conduct, but opens doors for future conducting jobs.

“It’s our showing, like a job interview,” she said. “It gives you a little more credibility.”

The award comes at a perfect time for Merrill.

“It is a great thing for my future as I’m finishing up my Masters in Music and entering the job market.”

She is in her second year of the Master of Music program at SMU, where she studies with Dr. Paul Phillips and serves as the assistant conductor and graduate teaching assistant of the Meadows Symphony Orchestra.

Merrill is looking to Jacksonville, Fla. for her next conducting opportunity, since her husband has recently been hired as a performance percussionist.

You can find Merrill conducting in March at a New Music recital which features new compositions by two other SMU students. 

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