Conductor Carmen Helena Téllez has been called "a quiet force behind contemporary Music in the United States today" by the online music journal Sequenza 21. She has also earned enthusiastic reviews as an expert in the performance of contemporary music. She was born in 1955 in Caracas, Venezuela, where she completed conservatory studies in piano and composition. She won an Ayacucho Foundation scholarship to pursue studies in the United States, where she earned her Doctor of Music degree at Indiana University in 1988.

Since the beginning of her professional career in 1985, she has been a regular guest conductor of professional and academic orchestras and choruses as well as in international music festivals in Latin America, Europe and the United States, with which she has developed a special emphasis on contemporary repertoire, Latin American composers, and on genres that explore the relationship of music with other arts.

In 1992, she joined the faculty at the Indiana University School of Music where she is now Professor of Choral Conducting. She is also the Director of the Indiana University Latin American Music Center and of the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble.

During the 2001-2002 she became the Music Director of the Contemporary Chamber Players of Chicago, conducting the second performance ever of the oratorio Praise by the eminent American composer Ralph Shapey; and the Midwest premiere of Stephen Hartke's Pulitzer finalist work Tituli. In the 2002-2003 season she conducted the Midwest premiere of John Adams' El Niño in her own semi-staged production, as well as the premiere of John Eaton's opera inasmuch... in New York City.

Téllez is also one of the founders and creative directors of Aguavá New Music Studio, a creative group of artists dedicated to the promotion of contemporary composers. She has toured the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Israel with Aguavá and has been the producer of their three recordings.

In the meantime, she has continued to pursue a successful international guest conducting career. Her most recent projects include the commission and world premiere of Cary Boyce's cantata Ave Maris Stella at the Festival Cervantino in Mexico.She was the featured artist of the online journal Musica-Femina. She just conducted specially commissioned concert of contemporary music with Aguavá New Music Studio at the prestigious concert series of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

In 2005, Téllez initated Aguavante, a non-profit organization dedicated to the innovative inter-disciplinary presentation of new music to audiences, in order to enhance the connection of composers with the concerns and rituals of present-day society.

Visit Carmen Helena Téllez Web Site
Monday, June 20, 2005
On Women Conductors

Dear Colleagues:
The news of Marin Alsop's appointment to the Baltimore Symphony is indeed exciting. In reaction to David Salvage's post, I want to share with you a stream of commentaries derived from an email I sent to women students and young colleagues of mine a few weeks back, also in response to other news about Marin Alsop. I told them of an interview with Marin Alsop posted on "Music Review," a program in BBC World, on account of her being named the best female artist of the year in Britain.

I was initially struck by the similarities between the questions that were posed to her and some that were given to me twenty years ago by El Nacional, an important newspaper in Caracas, when I was barely beginning to conduct. It seems that the questions remain the same today because the rarity of women conductors still persists, or is perceived to persist. The questions dealt with archetypes, marketing strategies, dress codes, and the like. Decades ago, when Nadia Boulanger was the only woman conductor visible to the media, she dealt with these questions in interviews as well. Articles have been written about how the contemporary media perceived her to be negotiating the issue by projecting the image of the selfless priestess of music, sacrificing the life of a woman for the sake of art. All this may illustrate in a specific manner the level of codification and conservatism in Classical music, and is worth further study. The questions on women conductors appear as virtually the same over fifty years or in three continents.

Another interesting aspect is that Alsop cimented her reputation through excellent performances of American music, before entering the mainstream after becoming principal conductor of Bournemouth Symphony in England and now Baltimore.

It is my perception that a relationship may exist between the work of living composers and the career of women conductors.(If I remember correctly, Boulanger premiered Stravinsky's "Dumbarton Oaks" for example.) Is it a way to carve a niche? Do women conductors facilitate the recognition of composers with more consistency that men? Conversely, do women offer a different style of performance or a different rapport composer-conductor?

If you have the time, below you will find what my colleagues and students commented. Otherwise, I would like to hear your experiences and your ideas on my comments above.