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Austin Peay student one of six in world selected for women conductor fellowship


(Posted on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021)

An Austin Peay State University graduate conducting student has been chosen for an internationally competitive women conductor fellowship with Girls Who Conduct and the Georgia Symphony Orchestra.

Sandra Cepero was one of six conductors accepted to the new fellowship program designed to support aspiring women, women-identifying and non-binary conductors through mentoring, shadowing, training and practice.

“It’s a good opportunity to grow, to learn, and it’s a good experience because I can meet women from Korea, from England, from different parts of the world,” said Cepero, who was born in Cuba and has lived in Mexico, Spain and the Czech Republic. “The music world is a little difficult, and for women it’s more difficult.”

The fellowship includes three residency weekends and several virtual meetings through the academic year. The residency weekends allow the fellows to observe rehearsals, attend Georgia Symphony Orchestra concerts and work with the musicians during conducting workshops.

The Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay is sponsoring Cepero’s participation with the fellowship by paying the travel expenses for her trips to Atlanta.

Cepero already attended a residency weekend at the end of September, and she’ll return to Atlanta in February and May.

“I had good conversations, good meetings,” she said. “We talked about important topics, about interviewing for jobs in the future, preparing us for the future.

“Also we were with the orchestra conducting, rehearsing. We had a very busy weekend.”

Cepero, far right, was one of six conductors chose for the fellowship.

The weekend lasted three days, and the days lasted from 9 in the morning to 10 at night.

“And after I came back (to Clarksville), I went straight to my class,” Cepero added. “I slept three hours that night.”

Cepero is a graduate teaching assistant and student under the direction of Austin Peay music professor Dr. Gregory Wolynec. She has conducted orchestras in Europe, South America and the United States and is assistant conductor of Austin Peay’s symphony orchestra.

She has studied music since she was 7 years old, including pursuing post-graduate degrees in Spain and Mexico.

The five conductors in addition to Cepero chosen for the fellowship are Renatka Dworak Berlin from Charlotte, North Carolina; Maria del Mar Goyes Rojas from Colombia; JaeEun Kim from South Korea; Constança Simas from Portugal; and Catherine Willingham from Atlanta, Georgia.

“The aim of the program is to work with aspiring women conductors from all backgrounds and with different experiences, including candidates from minority ethnic communities and those with disabilities, who currently are underrepresented in the field of classical music,” said Girls Who Conduct founder Chaowen Ting, an associate professor of music and director of orchestral studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

To learn more about the music programs offered at Austin Peay, visit the Department of Music’s website.


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