May 15, 2024

For Immediate Release


Massachusetts - New York

The Solti Foundation U.S.

Announces 18 Career Assistance Awards

EVANSTON, IL - Announced today by Board Chair Penny Van Horn and Artistic and Awards Committee Chair Elizabeth Buccheri, The Solti Foundation U.S. has selected 18 young conductors to receive a 2024 Career Assistance Award (CAA). Six of the young conductors are receiving recognition by the Foundation for the first time, and 10 of the awardees have management representation.


Ms. Van Horn stated, “The recipients of the 2024 Career Assistance Awards certainly are a group to watch. This year’s applicants have diverse interests and backgrounds, a wide age range – from 24 to 36, and work throughout the United States and abroad. It is exciting to see a group of young musicians who are passionately dedicated to their chosen art form and truly excited by classical music and what it offers.


“On behalf of The Solti Foundation U.S., I am pleased to congratulate Nathan Blair, Elias Brown, Austin Chanu, Maurice Cohn, Conner Gray Covington, Michelle Di Russo, Nathaniel Efthimiou, Stefano Flavoni, Kyrian Friedenberg, Taichi Fukumura, Gerald Karni, Andrew J. Kim, Benjamin Manis, Jacob Niemann, Tristan Rais-Sherman, Euan Shields, Matthew Straw, and William Garfield Walker. Congratulations!”


Ms. Buccheri added, “Of the 50 applications received this year, only 5 were from women conductors. The Solti Foundation U.S. believes in supporting young American conductors -citizens or permanent residents of the United States, 36 years of age or younger, who are career-ready artists in the field of conducting are eligible to apply. We hope to see more women applying in the future.


“Looking at the award recipients, there are so many posts and fellowships to be found in this group! The energy each of these conductors have for this incredible field is simply thrilling! Congratulations to you all, and we look forward to watching as your careers continue to expand!”


The Solti Foundation has been providing assistance to young conductors in the early stages of their careers for over two decades. In addition to the concert and operatic repertoire that is the basis of the musical cornerstones that are expected of applicants, there continues to be an expanding focus on community, education, and even technology by the award recipients.


The 2024 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awardees

(With the large number of Awardees, complete biographical information may be found on each artist’s website via the hyperlink in each name.) Awardees are in alphabetical order.


Nathan Blair became the 2nd Kapellmeister with the Deutsches Nationaltheater and Staatskapelle Weimar this 2023-24 season. Upcoming engagements with the organization include serving as music director for the Wiederaufnahme of My Fair Lady and Räuber Hotzenplot both in 2024, and a new production of Die Zauberflöte (2025), as well as conducting performances (Nachdirigate) a new production of Hänsel und Gretel, the Wiederaufnahme of La Cenerentola, and a new production of La Traviata.


Elias P. Brown is a Salonen Fellow for 2023-24, personally mentored by Esa-Pekka Salonen and serves as assistant conductor at the San Francisco Symphony, while also working as Assistant Conductor with the Colburn Conservatory Orchestra in the Nagaunee Conducting Program. He served as Assistant Conductor of the Korean National Symphony Orchestra from 2022–2023. a role he assumed after winning First Prize as well as the Orchestra Prize at the Korean International Conducting Competition. He is currently supported as a Stipendiat of the Conducting Forum of the Germany Music Council.


Austin Chanu is Assistant Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra. He will lead the orchestra in an all-Tchaikovsky program at The Mann Center this summer. In 2024-25, he will lead two concerts with The Butler County Symphony Orchestra as a finalist for the Music Directorship. Austin has appeared as a guest conductor with the Baltimore Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Omaha Symphony, and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.


Maurice Cohn currently serves as Assistant Conductor for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He was recently named as the 11th Music Director of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Upcoming dates include Music in the Mountains festival (summer 2024), Omaha Symphony and Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic (2024-25 season).


Conner Gray Covington is a Visiting Faculty member of the Longy School of Music. Upcoming guest engagements in the 2024-25 season include debuts with the San Francisco, Knoxville, Tallahassee, and Vancouver symphonies, as well as returns to the symphony orchestras of San Diego, Utah, and Sarasota.


Michelle Di Russo is currently serving as Associate Conductor (third season) of the North Carolina Symphony. She is also a 2023 Dudamel Fellow with the LA Philharmonic and a mentee of the Taki Alsop Fellowship. She has been named Associate Conductor for Fort Worth Symphony, beginning fall 2024 for 2024-2026. This summer she will be in Switzerland, where she has been awarded a Verbier Festival Conducting Fellowship.


Nathaniel Efthimiou is the Assistant Conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School and an Assistant Professor of Music at Berklee College of Music. In 2023, he was in residence with Opera Southwest through The Solti Foundation's Elizabeth Buccheri Opera Residency program. Amongst the orchestras with which he has guested are the London Symphony Orchestra, Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra, and Amarillo Symphony.


Stefano Flavoni currently serves as an Assistant Conductor of the Staatsoper Hamburg and is also a cover conductor for the New York Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony. This summer, he serves as Assistant Conductor for the Bayerische Staatsoper’s production of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, and as Associate Conductor for Minnesota’s Lakes Area Music Festival production of “A Night at the Opera.”


Kyrian Friedenberg was appointed Assistant Conductor of l’Ensemble Intercontemporain at the Philharmonie de Paris in January 2024. Amongst his 2023-24 season guest engagements are l’Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, l’Orchestra della Toscana, l’Orchestre National de Lille, and Suedwestdeutsche Philharmonie Konstanz, to name a few. Upcoming guest engagements include a tour around Florence, Italy with Orchestra della Toscana in June, and a return to the orchestra this fall, as well as his debut with l'Ensemble Intercontemporain in early 2025. He is the winner of the 2022 Neeme Järvi Prize at the Gstaad Menuhin Festival.


Taichi Fukumura is currently serving as the Assistant Conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Fukumura is the Second Prize Winner of The Mahler Competition 2023 with the Bamberg Symphony. Recent highlights include his international guest conducting debut with the Orquesta de Cámara de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and guest assisting the Houston Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He has served as Assistant Conductor of Chicago Sinfonietta. He will conduct the Fort Worth Symphony in 8 performances between mid-May and June.


Gerald Karni’s guesting this season has included the New York Philharmonic Ensembles at Merkin Hall, Filarmonica de Stat Sibiu, Orchestra della Svizzera italiana, and Amarillo Symphony (Texas). This May, he jumped in to conduct the Belgrade Philharmonic in a program of Strauss' Don Quixote with cellist Daniel Müller Schott and Debussy Iberia.


Andrew J. Kim is Music Director of New York Youth Symphony, a position he began this fall 2023. Kim also serves on the faculty of The Conducting Institute in Fort Worth, Texas, a comprehensive conducting training program. Among the orchestras he has conducted are Südwestdeutsche Philharmonie Konstanz, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. Kim has served as the Assistant Conductor of Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and as a cover conductor with Minnesota Orchestra.


Benjamin Manis This summer 2024, he will serve as Resident Conductor for the Grand Teton Music Festival. Future engagements include the San Francisco Opera (Bizet, Carmen). He served as Associate Conductor of the Utah Symphony in the summer of 2023, and as Resident Conductor of the Houston Grand Opera from 2019-22, where he led three world premieres.


Jacob Niemann recently completed a three -year residency as the Rita E. Hauser Conducting Fellow at the Curtis Institute of Music. Niemann has recently served as a Staff Conductor at the Aspen Music Festival and School; in summers 2018, 2021, and 2022, he held fellowships at the Aspen Conducting Academy, and won the Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize. As a cover conductor, this season Niemann worked with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He has worked as cover conductor for the National Symphony Orchestra and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

Tristan Rais-Sherman is currently Assistant Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, having been promoted after successfully serving as a Conducting Fellow during the 2022-23 season. Recent engagements this season include guesting with the Baltimore Symphony in an Education concert, and leading The Philadelphia Orchestra & China National Symphony Orchestra in the 50th Anniversary Celebration Concert and The Philadelphia Orchestra & Orchestra Academia China in the Global Music Education League Violin Competition 2023 – both in Beijing, China, this fall.

Euan Shields is currently Assistant Conductor of Great Britain’s Hallé Orchestra and Music Director of the Hallé Youth Orchestra. Upcoming engagements include a fall 2024 rush hour concert with the Hallé Orchestra, featuring Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 juxtaposed against Takemitsu’s Flock Descends into a Pentagonal Garden, and several additional concerts, including the Hallé Family Christmas Concert.

Matthew Straw is the newly appointed Assistant Conductor of Opéra National du Rhin (French National Opera in Strasbourg), where he will make his debut with Les Contes d’Hoffmann in 2025. Assistant Conductor of the Utah Symphony, he is a frequent cover conductor for the Brussels Philharmonic, he has also served as cover conductor for the Saint Louis Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, and the ORF-RSO Wien. He served as Associate Conductor of the Des Moines Metro Opera in 2022. He has been a Conducting Fellow with the Cabrillo Festival (2023), an AAF Young Conductors Fellow with the Salzburg Festival (2021) and was awarded a Helen F. Whitaker Conducting Fellowship at Aspen Music Festival in 2019.


William Garfield Walker is Chief Conductor and Founder of the innovative Nova Orchester Wien (NOW!). This season Walker joined the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center for The Solti Foundation US Elizabeth Buccheri Residency. He has been a recipient of a 2021 Ansbacher Conducting Fellowship at the Salzburg Festival and was awarded the Bruno Walter Memorial Conducting Scholarship in 2017. In March 2020, both the Mississippi House of Representatives and Mississippi Senate jointly presented Walker with a bipartisan Resolution, honoring his musical achievements.

About The Solti Foundation U.S.

Now in its 24th year working with outstanding young U.S. conductors to further develop their talent and careers, The Solti Foundation U.S. is the foremost organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to helping young conductors. It is the first organization to have created an award in the legendary conductor's honor.


Established in 2000, the Foundation honors the memory of the legendary conductor Sir Georg Solti by lending significant support to career-ready young American musicians. In 2004, the Foundation concentrated the focus of its award program to solely assist talented young American conductors early in their professional careers (its original mission was of a more general arts nature). Since then, it has awarded over 1.5 million dollars through grants and residencies to American conductors.


The Foundation endeavors to seek out those musicians who have chosen to follow a path similar to that followed by Sir Georg himself. In keeping with the spirit of Sir Georg's active approach to his career, young conductors must apply to be considered for the awards.


While dedicated to identifying and assisting young conductors early on, the Foundation is also concerned with the long-term development of its award recipients. It continues to offer support, and maintains a constant interest in their growth and achievements.


The Foundation currently awards the following grants annually:


The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award

The prestigious $30,000 grant is given annually to a single promising American conductor 36 years of age or younger. It is the largest grant currently given to American conductors in the formative years of their careers. The Award, also known as The Solti Fellow, includes door-opening introductions, ongoing professional mentoring, and introductions to two of Chicago's most prestigious performing organizations: Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award

The amount of the Career Assistance Awards varies.


The Elizabeth Buccheri Opera Residency

Introduced in 2014, the program places former award recipients with a distinguished opera house for one-on-one mentoring and coaching of an opera during the company's professional season. Over 20 residencies have been awarded, and recipients have worked with numerous stellar opera companies renowned for their artistic excellence across the country. Companies include the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Florentine Opera Company in Milwaukee, North Carolina Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Michigan Opera Theatre and Opera Southwest. Conductors cannot apply but are instead selected by the Artistic and Awards Committee. Recent 2023 residencies were awarded to Dean Whiteside at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Nathaniel Efthimiou at Opera Southwest, and Tiffany Chang at Washington National Opera.


The Solti Foundation U.S. is the only American Foundation to grant these kinds of awards each year to young American conductors. Only citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are career-ready artists in the field of conducting are eligible to apply.


Applicants for all Solti Foundation U.S. awards must be able to demonstrate that he/she is developing a career as a symphonic/operatic conductor. All applications from The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award are considered for a Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award. Applications are reviewed by an awards committee comprised of a panel of professionals with broad musical and conducting experience. The Foundation reserves the right to withhold a grant in any given year if the Awards Committee does not find suitable applicants in one or more of the various award categories.


For further details on The Solti Foundation U.S., its past awardees, their biographical information, the Foundation's newsletter, as well as guidelines for the upcoming 2025 Awards and a downloadable application form, please visit the Foundation's website at

Press Contact

for The Solti Foundation U.S.:

Laura Grant, Grant Communications