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 of Symphony Nova Scotia and Co-Artistic Director of the Nevis Ensemble with Jon Hargreaves. She frequently records for BBC Radio 3 and CBC, and her first major commercial recording with Decca, a collaboration with Isata Kanneh-Mason and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, 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 on the board of Directors for London-based opera company formidAbility, an opera company pioneering the commissioning and producing of opera with accessibility at the foundation of the creative process, and Artist-in-Association at English Touring Opera.
A passionate communicator, 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 Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, NZ Symphony Orchestra, most of the BBC Orchestras, RPO, CSBO, LPO, Auckland Philharmonia, Scottish Chamber Orchestra. In the theatre, she has worked with Opera North, Scottish Ballet, Scottish Opera, English Touring Opera and New Zealand Opera. Recording and broadcasting credits include the Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera North.
2018 saw the inaugural tour of the innovative Nevis Ensemble, of which she is co-Artistic Director with husband Jon Hargreaves, a project founded on the maxim that "music is for everyone, everywhere", which 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 farming communities in the Scottish Borders to the summit of Ben Nevis in the Highlands, and including the most comprehensive tour of the Outer Hebrides by an orchestra, which even saw the ensemble perform on Hirta, in the remote archipelago of St Kilda. During the 2020 lockdowns Nevis commissioned and recorded 14 new works including Alex Ho's ground-breaking Breath and Draw. They also created an array of global participatory projects such as a recording of Auld Lang Syne which received videos from 500 amateur musicians, from 130 countries, singing together in their own languages.
She held several significant 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 Alsop Conducting Fellowship Prizewinner in 2013. 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 and examiner at the major UK conservatoires. She is a frequent contributor and guest speaker for various industry podcasts and blogs, and in summer 2019 launched her own blog and podcast, Scordatura, which explores ideas around digital developments, musical culture, advocacy and arts governance.