The West Australian Symphony Orchestra has announced Perth musician Jen Winley as its Assistant Conductor for 2022.

Jen Winley

Jen Winley, WASO’s Assistant Conductor for 2022. Image © Shea Walshe.

Winley is a rising star in Western Australian music, having progressed through many of the significant pathway programs both in the state and around the country. As WASO’s Assistant Conductor, she will assist Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Asher Fisch and other WASO guest conductors throughout the 2022 season, and will receive one-on-one masterclasses with Fisch.

Winley has been a participant in WASO’s Emerging Conductors program in 2020 and 2021, and in 2020 took part in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s Australian Conducting Academy Summer School, undertaking workshops with the TSO Principal Guest Conductor Johannes Fritzsch.

A percussionist by training, Winley has performed with the Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmanian and West Australian Symphony Orchestras, as well as Orchestra Victoria and Academy of Melbourne. She completed a Bachelor of Music Performance in Percussion at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), graduating top of her class in 1999. She is currently a conductor for the Western Australian Youth Orchestras Association (WAYO), and made her mainstage debut with WASO in their Christmas Spectacular last year.

“I am absolutely delighted to be appointed as the 2022 WASO Assistant Conductor,” said Winley.”I have so much admiration for the wonderful WASO musicians and Principal Conductor Asher Fisch, and I am very much look forward to being part of the WASO family.”

Winley takes over the position from Thaddeus Huang, who held the role in 2020 and 2021, and is now Music Director of the Frankston Symphony Orchestra and Australian New Goldberg Orchestra. Previous assistants include Christopher Dragon (2013–2015), Elena Schwarz (2017) and Carlo Antonioli (2018–2019). Schwarz has since secured the role of Associate Conductor with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and was the Dudamel Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2018/2019 season; Dragon is now the Music Director of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra and Resident Conductor of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in the United States.

Jen Winley

Jen Winley leading WASO in rehearsal. Image supplied.

Speaking to Limelight back in August when announcing their search for an Assistant Conductor for 2022, WASO’s Executive Manager of Artistic Planning Evan Kennea said that, in addition to the core work of learning how to prepare an orchestra to perform, the Assistant Conductor will also spend time with the orchestra’s artistic planning team, as well as marketing, philanthropy and other departments, to learn more holistically about being an artistic director.

“There is more to any conducting position than just the making of the music,” said Kennea. “How do you put a program together? What will work as a musical journey, or as an artistic statement? What will work for the orchestra – have you programmed four works in a row that are incredibly string-focussed and will kill your string section before the end of the second rehearsal? What is the balance of the program that appeals to an audience? How do you find the balance of a program across a season of concerts?”

“And all of the little things we have to balance as you are building a concert season – budget, the size of the orchestra, the cost of guest conductors or soloists. What works have an immediate appeal to an audience, and what works are less immediately popular but are intriguing and amazing, and your audience should hear those as well. How do you stretch the audience while keeping them with you?”

Winley’s first engagement as WASO’s Assistant Conductor will also be her film-score conducting debut as she leads the orchestra through John Williams’ score to Home Alone, in Home Alone in Concert at Perth’s RAC Arena.