American conductor Rachel Waddell is in the business of shared experiences. She became a conductor because of her own love of the process of music creation, and she wants to enable as many as possible to share their own stories through music. She believes 21st century orchestras have an opportunity to mirror the American people through diverse programs, orchestras, and audiences, and she is passionately committed to bringing that vision to fruition. As a conductor she prides herself in her ability to grow orchestras and their resources, on her innovative programming, and her ability to build meaningful connections with her community.
Rachel serves as the Director of Orchestral Activities and Assistant Professor, with the Arthur Satz Department of Music at the University of Rochester in New York. Lauded as, “a conductor of creativity and courage,” she won both second place (2019) and third place (2020) in the American Prize’s Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award in Orchestral Programming for her work with the UR Orchestras. Her seasons balance traditional masterworks with new and underplayed music, and interdisciplinary and multimedia presentations. Rachel marries her commitment to conducting and education by maintaining a busy profile in the professional and academic worlds. Currently she is a Music Director Candidate for the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra. She has conducted orchestras across the country including the Rochester, Las Vegas, and Fort Wayne Philharmonics, and Cleveland’s Suburban Symphony. While serving as the Associate Conductor of the Canton Symphony Orchestra in Ohio, Waddell conducted over 80 performances of classical, pops, and education concerts.
In addition to Waddell’s active professional career, she places immense value on continuing to develop her own craft and to inspire and educate others. She is a student of Ennio Nicotra, Italian conductor and famed Musin Technique pedagogue. She has attended numerous conducting workshops, seminars, and institutes including the Dallas Opera’s prestigious Hart Institute for Women Conductors, and Mark Shapiro’s Intermediate Conducting Intensive at Juilliard.
Rachel’s interest in the constantly evolving role and responsibility of orchestras within their communities led her to co-found Conductors for Change, LLC, a New York-based non-profit organization. From 2020-21, she led new initiatives with her orchestras at the University of Rochester in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included a Virtual Postcard Series in partnership with Eastman Performing Arts Medicine and the University of Rochester Medical Center, a Composer Spotlight Series, over five hours of virtual concert productions, a massive digital collaboration with conductor Tiffany Chang and Oberlin Conservatory, fundraisers, and masterclass opportunities for the orchestra musicians. During this time Rachel also earned a certificate in Music Industry Essentials from the prestigious Clive Davis of Record Music at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Originally from Connecticut, Waddell has lived throughout the country including the Southwest, Midwest, and east coast. She pulls inspiration from all facets of her life and travels. Originally trained as a vocalist, she turned to instrumental music after her time in her local Fife and Drum Corps. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Composition from the Hartt School of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.