2016 Alumni Spring 2016

SMU Alumna Michelle Merrill ’06, ’12 Receives Solti Foundation Award

Michelle Merrill ’06, ’12, assistant conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, is among 11 recipients of 2016 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awards for young conductors with promising careers.

Michelle Merrill ’06, ’12, assistant conductor, Detroit Symphony
Michelle Merrill ’06, ’12, assistant conductor, Detroit Symphony

“The mission of the Solti Foundation U.S. is to identify, support and promote emerging young American conductors as they launch their classical careers,” says Penny Van Horn, U.S. board chair. “We nurture relationships with all our recipients, tracking their progress and offering support when it is merited. We also provide continuing support not only in the form of grants but in valuable access to mentors, door opening introductions and opera residencies.”
Merrill is in her second season as assistant conductor and Phillip and Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She was recently named one of Hour Detroit Magazine’s “3 Cultural Organization Leaders to Watch” and made her classical subscription debut with the Detroit Symphony in April 2016.
Recent and upcoming engagements include the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Symphoria (Syracuse), Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, Boise Philharmonic, Orlando Philharmonic, New Music Detroit, St. Augustine Music Festival and Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, where she formerly served as assistant conductor.
In March 2014, Merrill stepped in on short notice with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra for its performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, named a Top 10 Classical Performances of 2014 by The Dallas Morning News. In 2013, she was awarded the prestigious Ansbacher Conducting Fellowship by members of the Vienna Philharmonic and the American Austrian Foundation. A strong advocate of new music, she recently collaborated with composer Gabriela Lena Frank and soprano Jessica Rivera on Frank’s La Centinela y la Paloma (The Keeper and the Dove), as a part of numerous community programs related to the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
A Dallas native, Merrill studied conducting at SMU with Paul C. Phillips, professor of music, Martha Raley Peak Endowed Centennial Chair and director of orchestral activities in Meadows School of the Arts. She earned bachelor’s degrees in music education and saxophone performance in 2006 and master’s degrees in orchestral conducting and music education in 2012.
The Solti Foundation U.S. was established in honor of Sir Georg Solti, internationally renowned orchestral and operatic conductor, by his family following his death in 1997. Over the past 12 years, the foundation has granted 46 career assistance awards to “young, exceptionally talented American musicians at the start of their professional careers,” according to Valerie Solti, honorary board chair.