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Alumna Michelle Merrill Wins 2016 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award

Winners circle includes conductors from New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, among others

Meadows alumna and Detroit Symphony Orchestra assistant conductor Michelle Merrill. Photo by Cybelle Codish

Meadows alumna Michelle Merrill (B.M. Music Education ’06, M.M. Music Education and M.M. Conducting ’12) is one of 11 recipients of the prestigious Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award. The award recognizes outstanding young U.S. conductors and helps them further develop their careers.

The award was established in 2000 in honor of conductor Sir Georg Solti (1912-97), best known for his appearances with opera companies in Munich, Frankfurt and London; his 22-year term as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and for his 31 Grammy Awards, the most won by any Grammy winner.

According to Penny Van Horn, chair of the Solti Foundation U.S. board, the foundation is interested in the long-term development of its awardees. “We nurture relationships with all our recipients, tracking their progress and offering support when it is merited,” says Van Horn. “We also provide continuing support not only in the form of grants but in valuable access to mentors, door opening introductions and opera residencies.”

Michelle Merrill is in her second season as assistant conductor and Phillips and Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She made her classical subscription debut with the symphony in April 2016. Merrill helps plan and conduct over 30 concerts per season, including educational webcasts that have reached over 100,000 students in classrooms throughout the nation. Merrill also gives pre-concert lectures, leads adult music education seminars, engages with students in and around Metro Detroit, speaks on behalf of the Detroit Symphony throughout the community and participates in hosting “Live from Orchestra Hall,” the Detroit Symphony’s free concert webcast watched in more than 100 countries.

An alumna of SMU Meadows School of the Arts, she studied with Professor of Music, Martha Raley Peak Centennial Chair and Director of Orchestral Activities Dr. Paul Phillips. In 2013 she was awarded the prestigious Ansbacher Conducting Fellowship by members of the Vienna Philharmonic and the American Austrian Foundation, which enabled her to be in residence at the world-renowned Salzburg Festival. Dallas Morning News music columnist Scott Cantrell has described her work as “stunning” and named her in his Top Ten Classical Performances in 2014. She was recently named as one of Hour Detroit magazine’s “3 Cultural Organization Leaders to Watch.”

Recent and upcoming engagements include the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Symphoria (Syracuse), Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, Boise Philharmonic, Orlando Philharmonic, New Music Detroit, and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, where she formerly served as assistant conductor before going to Detroit.

In addition to Merrill, winners of the 2016 Solti award include Christopher Allen, John L. Magro Resident Conductor, Cincinnati Opera and associate conductor, Los Angeles Opera; Gene Chang, assistant conductor, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and music director, Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra; Ankush Kumar Bahl, assistant conductor, National Symphony Orchestra; Joshua Gersen, assistant conductor, New York Philharmonic and music director, New York Youth Symphony; Daniel Black, assistant conductor and Rae and Ed Schollmaier Foundation Chair, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, and music director of the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra; Keitaro Harada, associate conductor, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, associate conductor, Arizona Opera and associate conductor, Richmond (Va.) Symphony Orchestra; Yaniv Dinur, assistant conductor, The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; Stefano Sarzani, associate conductor, Des Moines Metro Opera; Stilian Kirov, music director, Symphony in C (Philadelphia, Pa.) and music director, Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra; and Sameer Patel, assistant conductor, The San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

Read more about Michelle Merrill and the SMU Meadows Division of Music; read more about the Solti Foundation U.S.

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