New Zealand-born Holly Mathieson is an award-winning conductor, regularly working with opera houses, ballet companies and orchestras in Europe, Australasia and North America. She is the Music Director Designate of Symphony Nova Scotia, Co-Artistic Director of the Nevis Ensemble with Jon Hargreaves, and founder and artistic director of Rata Music Collective. She frequently records for BBC Radio, and her first major commercial recording with Decca reached #1 on the UK classical charts. Her work has seen her travel to nearly every continent on the planet, and perform for audiences spanning from the British Royal Family and Europe’s political elites, to Scotland’s homeless and refugee communities. In addition to her conducting work, Holly is Co-Director of London-based opera company formidAbility alongside singer Joanne Roughton-Arnold. It is pioneering the commissioning and producing of opera with accessibility at the foundation of the creative process.
A passionate communicator, combined with crystalline technique and a collaborative approach, she has won plaudits in all forms of music direction from opera, ballet and family concerts, to full scale symphonic programmes. In recent seasons she conducted the London Symphony, BBC Concert, Royal Philharmonic, City of Birmingham, London Philharmonic and Scottish Chamber Orchestras, Southbank Sinfonia, Red Note Ensemble, Scottish Ballet, Royal College of Music Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Northern College of Music Symphony Orchestra. 2018 saw the inaugural tour of the innovative Nevis Ensemble, of which she is co-Artistic Director, a project founded on the maxim that "music is for everyone, everywhere", and aims to take music out of the concert hall, and into isolated and marginalised communities. In two years, the orchestra has given 170 free performances to around 25,500 people all across Scotland, from a farm in the Scottish Borders to the summit of Ben Nevis in the Highlands, and including the biggest ever tour by an orchestra of the Outer Hebrides, which saw the ensemble sail to the remote archipelago of St Kilda.
The current and upcoming seasons will see her debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Arctic Opera, Danish national Ballet, Opera North, Scottish Opera, Opera New Zealand, English Touring Opera, National Youth Orchestra GB, National Youth orchestra of Wales and Ulster Orchestra, as well as return appearances with the Auckland Philharmonia, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Ballet and performances at Garsington Opera Festival.
She held several major early-career positions, including the Leverhulme Fellowship in Conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Assistant Conductor of both the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras, and Resident Conductor within the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland. Prior to that, she was chosen as one of only four young conductors from around the world to participate in the Interaktion Dirigentenwerkstatt des Kritischen Orchesters with players from the Berlin Philharmonic and other top-tiered German orchestras. She enjoyed a critically acclaimed London debut with Opera Holland Park as part of the 2015 Christine Collins Young Artist Programme, and was a conducting fellow at Dartington International Summer School and Taki Concordia Prizewinner in 2013.
She has worked with, and learned at the side of, many esteemed conductors and counts the following among her mentors: Marin Alsop, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Christoph von Dohnányi, Peter Oundjian, Donald Runnicles, Thomas Søndergård, and Garry Walker. She holds a PhD in Music Iconography, during which she was awarded the global Sylff Fellowship, and in 2016 Zonta New Zealand named her one of New Zealand's Top 50 Women of Achievement.
She currently lives in Glasgow, and is regularly invited to be a guest teacher at institutions like the Royal College of Music, the University of Manchester, the University of Glasgow, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She is a frequent contributor and guest for BBC Radio, is a classical music writer and in summer 2019 launched a podcast called Scordatura.