The conductor’s podium at the Meyerson Symphony Center is hot right now. Just two months after Jaap van Zweden was named the next music director of the New York Philharmonic, the Solti Foundation U.S. announced that Karina Canellakis, the Dallas Symphony’s quickly rising assistant conductor, is the recipient of this year’s prestigious Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award.
Canellakis won a smaller award from the Solti foundation last year, but this award gives her $25,000 cash to pursue her conducting dreams, “ongoing professional mentoring” and an “in” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Sir Georg Solti was the music director of the Chicago Symphony for over 20 years.)
As we pointed out in our people issue last summer, Canellakis’ conducting career has taken off in big ways during her two-year stint here in Dallas. She got rave reviews when she was called up last-minute to fill in for an injured Jaap van Zweden, and she has been consistently impressive in ReMix concerts and during last spring’s SOLUNA festival where she collaborated with composers, artists and in a spectacular show at the AT&T Performing Arts Center with St. Vincent.
Canellakis may have begun her musical career as a violinist, but she has flourished as a conductor. On the podium and off she is precise and disciplined. She is driven by a passion for musical excellence and a tireless work ethic. As a little girl, she would nap on her mother’s shoulder in the concert hall as her father conducted orchestra concerts. At the DSO, she has eagerly studied under Van Zweden, soaking up everything he has to offer with the intensity of an over-achieving graduate student.
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Canellakis’ full list of professional mentors reads like a who’s-who of world class conductors. In addition to Jaap van Zweden, she has worked with Simon Rattle (Berlin Philharmonic), Fabio Luisi (Metropolitan Opera) and Alan Gilbert (the New York Phil’s current music director). With these conducting giants behind her, solid musical chops and a rapidly expanding resume, Canellakis is poised for a big career. Her time in Dallas will come to a close over the summer, and classical music gossip columnists are already making bets on where she’ll land next.
Will she take over at the DSO when Van Zweden goes to New York? Only time will tell. For now, Dallasites should snag every opportunity to see her while she’s still on the payroll. In May, she will conduct a strong ReMix program (grab tickets before it sells out). This award is likely not the last for Canellakis, and there’s no telling which podium(s) she’ll find herself on next.
Catherine Womack is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow her on twitter @kwomack.