Female conductor to lead Middle East orchestra

South Korean conductor Han-Na Chang has been named the music director of Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, beginning in September 2013. With a career as a cellist spanning two decades, her appointment at the four-year-old Middle Eastern orchestra marks a decisive move into conducting.

The position will run alongside the 30-year-old’s commitments as founding artistic director of Korea’s Absolute Classic Festival, as well as her upcoming engagements at orchestras around the world. Chang said of the Qatar ensemble: ‘It was born an elite orchestra.’ She continued:

‘Qatar Philharmonic is not only an orchestra for Qatar. With players from 30 different countries, it’s an orchestra of the world and for the world, as different parts of this world are interconnected and interwoven more than ever before. We’re fortunate that Qatar is investing in culture. ‘With our unique combination of personal background diversity and passionate unity in music, it will become one of the most relevant orchestras in the world. This is my vision, to make the philharmonic such an ensemble artistically.’

Kurt Meister, QPO executive director, said: ‘Han-Na has broad knowledge and deep experience, with a particular edge as a conductor in knowing how string players think and perceive. The orchestra will grow and evolve with her.’

QPO is a member of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Research and Community Development, whose mission is to ‘unlock human potential’ by bringing international music to local communities in the Arab region. The appointment is a positive sign for equality in the region.

Women arts leaders in the Middle East are relatively few and far between, but recent years have seen an increase in their appointments.  Cairo Opera House,while Maria Arnaout is the general director of the Damascus Opera House in Syria, and Brigitta Dagostin is the chairperson of the Dubai Concert Committee. And in 2008, Zuhal Sultan founded the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq aged just 17.

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