Carolyn Kuan is an exceptionally versatile conductor. Her commitment to contemporary music has established her as an international resource for new music. Regularly collaborating with top-tier orchestras around the world, she was the first woman to be appointed as Music Director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, a position she holds since 2011.
Carolyn’s North American engagements have included performances with the Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, Omaha, San Francisco, Seattle, Louisville, and Toronto Symphonies, the New York City Ballet, Colorado Music Festival and Glimmerglass Opera Festival, New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and Washington National Opera.
In 2021/2022, she made her debut with the Columbus (OH) Symphony. In the same season, she returned to the Opera Theatre of St. Louis to conduct “Harvey Milk”, and to the Santa Fe Opera for Huang Ruo’s “M Butterfly”.
Recent international engagements include concerts with the Bournemouth Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, National Symphony of Taiwan, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Residentie Orkest, Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatan, Royal Danish Ballet, the West Australian Symphony, and the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo. 2021/2022 saw her debut with the English National Opera in Philip Glass’ “Satyagraha”.
Although debuts with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, and at Lincoln Center were canceled as a result of the pandemic, Carolyn Kuan has had highlights in recent seasons including debuts with the Singapore Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, and the Portland Opera, conducting a production of Rossini’s “La Cenerentola”.
In June 2019, Carolyn Kuan conducted Mark Campbell’s “Stonewall” at the New York City Opera commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. She collaborated with Beth Morrison in the “Ouroboros Trilogy”, a three-part exploration of life, death, and rebirth. Working with composer Scott Wheeler, she conducted “Naga”, one of the three operas commissioned for the trilogy. She premiered Philip Glass’s opera “The Trial” with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and has conducted the Santa Fe Opera in Huang Ruo’s “Dr. Sun Yat-sen” and the Washington National Opera in Daniel Catan’s “Florencia en el Amazonas”.
While maintaining a solid connection with traditional repertoire, Carolyn has cultivated a unique expertise in Asian music and contemporary works. From 2007 to 2012, she was the conductor of the annual San Francisco Symphony Chinese New Year concert. For the Seattle Symphony, she helped launch the hugely successful “Celebrate Asia!” program with community leaders representing eight Asian cultures. She has led world premieres for Music from Japan and has conducted multimedia productions of the “Butterfly Lovers Concerto” and “A Monkey’s Tale” as part of Detroit Symphony’s World Music Series.
From 2003 to 2012, Carolyn Kuan served as Assistant Conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. Some of her finest successes have bridged the gap between cultural and social issues, as in her work raising awareness of conservation and the environment through her performances around the globe in the multimedia project “Life: A Journey Through Time.” Developed by the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and music director Marin Alsop, the project features music by Philip Glass and images by famed National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting. Carolyn’s performances of “Life” include a presentation at the Ninth World Wilderness Congress with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatan, at the “Change Is Powerful” festival with the Detroit Symphony, and at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider Inauguration, where her performance with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande was attended by more than 20 European heads of state and dozens of Nobel laureates.
Carolyn Kuan’s previous positions include Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Artist-in-Residence at the New York City Ballet, and Assistant Conductor for the Baltimore Opera. In 2012 she led the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in her debut album for Naxos featuring works by Chinese composers.
Recipient of numerous awards, Carolyn Kuan holds the distinction of being the first woman to be awarded the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship in 2003, resulting in her residency at the 2004 Salzburg Festival. Winner of the first Taki Concordia Fellowship, she has received additional awards from the Women’s Philharmonic, the Conductors Guild, and the Susan W. Rose Fund for Music.
Carolyn left her native Taiwan at the age of 14 to study in the US. She graduated cum laude from Smith College, received a Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois, and a Performance Diploma from the Peabody Conservatory.
pura musica is dedicated to promoting female conductors. We are pleased to represent Carolyn Kuan in Europe. Please get in touch with us for booking inquiries and further information.