With energy, imagination, and a passion for people, American conductor Rachel Waddell proves an unabashed advocate for the 21st-century orchestra. Her leadership across the country demonstrates her innate ability to transform vision into action. Rachel believes by uplifting, celebrating, and reflecting the artistry of our neighbors, orchestras become the creative heartbeat of our communities. Through breathtaking collaborations and untiring dedication to education, mentorship, and community, Rachel inspires transformative experiences and ensembles.
Rachel looks forward to diving into her role as the newly-appointed director of orchestras at Colorado State University. Previously she served as director of orchestral activities, and assistant professor with the Arthur Satz Department of Music at the University of Rochester in New York. The UR orchestras gained recognition as a two-time national winner of the American Prize’s Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award in Orchestral Programming in 2019 and 2020. In 2021, they won international acclaim in collaboration with conducting colleague Tiffany Chang and Oberlin Conservatory through a digital performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, named Best Instrumental Performance of 2021 by the LIT Talent Awards.
Rachel maintains a busy profile in the professional and academic worlds. She has conducted the Rochester, Las Vegas, and Fort Wayne Philharmonics, the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra (where she was a music director finalist), and Cleveland’s Suburban Symphony. While serving as the associate conductor of the Canton Symphony Orchestra in Ohio, Rachel conducted more than 80 performances of classical, pops, and education concerts. She has attended numerous conducting programs including the Dallas Opera’s prestigious Hart Institute for Women Conductors, and Mark Shapiro’s Conducting Intensive at Juilliard. She recently made her Vienna debut conducting Così fan tutte as part of the Vienna Opera Academy. This summer she will study with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Kensho Watanabe at Le Domaine Forget Charlevoix
Rachel’s interest in the constantly evolving role and responsibility of orchestras within their communities led her to co-found Conductors for Change, Inc., a 501(c)(3) for anyone reimagining the future of the American orchestra.