Famed Manchester orchestra The Hallé, headed up by CEO John Summers, has announced 23-year-old Jonathon Heyward (pictured above) as its new assistant conductor for the 2016-17 season. Heyward, who hails from Charleston, South Carolina, will follow in the footsteps of Cheshire-born Jamie Phillips, now an associate conductor at the Hallé.
In 2015 Heyward won the prestigious Grand Prix of the 54th International Competition for Young Conductors in Besançon, a prestigious award which has launched the careers of some of classical music’s most successful conductors.
Said Heyward: ‘I am tremendously honoured to be appointed as the assistant conductor and very much look forward to being a part of the growing legacy that the Hallé has developed over the many years with Sir Mark Elder, including the association with the Hallé Youth Orchestra.’
The two-year appointment will see Heywood assist music director Sir Mark Elder and visiting artists, act as music director of the Hallé Youth Orchestra, and conduct concerts with the Hallé, both in Manchester and elsewhere.
The opportunity could be life-changing for the student: previous assistants have gone on to demonstrate promising trajectories to their careers.
When the then 20-year-old RNCM and University of Manchester educated Phillips joined the Hallé as an assistant conductor in 2012, he made headlines as the youngest ever conductor to be appointed by the orchestra. Also a laureate of the famed International Competition for Young Conductors in Besançon, he is now a Los Angeles Philharmonic Dudamel Fellow and in the 2015-16 season was appointed associate conductor at the Hallé.
Phillips’ predecessor, Jamaican-born Andrew Gourlay, took up the position of music director of Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León in January 2016, following two years as principal guest conductor, having succeeded Vasily Petrenko in 2014. He has conducted recordings with London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and Irish Chamber Orchestra.
Music director Mark Elder described Heyward as ‘bright rising start of the conducting world’. ‘We are delighted that Jonathon will be joining the Halle,’ he added. ‘I am looking forward to watching his development in the variety of roles that offer a young conductor the most wonderful platform to develop the skills and understanding needed to build an international career’.
Though a word of warning to the Hallé – be wary of looking like an all boys’ club.