Institute for Women Conductors

2016 Institute for Women Conductors Observers

Ching-Chun Lai, USA/Taiwan

Ching-Chun Lai, Director of Orchestras at the Crane School of Music, SUNY-Potsdam, has worked on opera productions of Pelléas et Mélisande, Don Pasquale, L’elisir d’amore, Maria Stuarda, Alcina, Thaïs, and The Turn of the Screw. Her performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion were described in Isthmus as “consistently excellent.” During her tenure, the Crane Symphony Orchestra has performed in Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Recent engagement includes Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and its youth orchestra.

Dr. Lai studied conducting with Gunther Schuller and James Smith. Additional studies include Gstaad Menuhin Festival and Academy, Gustav Meier, and JoAnn Falletta. Dr. Lai received her DMA degree from UW-Madison, where she received the Church Memorial Conducting Award, and Master’s degree with Distinguished Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music.

Michelle Rofrano, USA

Michelle Rofrano recently completed her master’s degree in conducting at the Peabody Conservatory, where she studied with Marin Alsop, Gustav Meier, and Markand Thakar. She will serve as assistant conductor for the upcoming Oberlin in Italy 2016 summer festival. Rofrano recently led a production of Così fan tutte with D.C Public Opera, and she was assistant conductor for the Baltimore-based new music ensemble Symphony Number One during the 2015-2016 season. Previous engagements include serving as cover conductor for productions with Lyric Opera Baltimore and Opera Birmingham. Performances with the Opera Project of New Jersey and Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, and master classes with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. She holds a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Rutgers University.

Carolyn Watson, USA/Australia

Conductor Carolyn Watson is Director of Orchestral Studies at Texas State University. From 2013-15 she held the position of Conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra. A Fellow of the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival, Carolyn was a major prizewinner at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest. She has participated in master classes with Peter Eötvös, Yoel Levi and Alex Polishchuk and conducted musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic in Interaktion. Carolyn is the recipient of the Brian Stacey Award for Emerging Australian Conductors, Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize and Opera Foundation Australia’s Bayreuth Opera Award. She holds a PhD in Performance (Conducting) from the University of Sydney where her doctoral thesis was Gesture as Communication: The Art of Carlos

Parisa Zaeri, USA

A native of Dallas, Parisa Zaeri maintains an active career as a conductor, collaborative pianist, and vocal coach.  Her recent musical engagements include serving as Music Director for Boulder Opera’s upcoming production of Carmen (Fall 2016), as Cover Conductor for the American premiere of Philip Glass’s Witches of Venice at Opera Saratoga (Summer 2016), and as Assistant Conductor for Southern Methodist University’s production of  Die Zauberflöte (Spring 2016).  Notable mentors include Paul Phillips and Grant Wenaus.  Parisa graduated with her Master’s degree in Piano Performance -- Collaborative Piano from New York University in May 2015 and currently resides in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two dogs.

2016 Participants


Elizabeth Askren


Mihaela Cesa-Goje


Alexandra Cravero


Tianyi Lu


Chaowen Ting


Zoe Zeniodi



Ching-Chun Lai


Michelle Rofrano


Carolyn Watson


Parisa Zaeri

2015 Alumni


Jennifer Condon


Jessica Gethin


Natalie Murray Beale


Stephanie Rhodes


Anna Skryleva


Lidiya Yankovskaya



Arianne Abela


Alexandra Grabarchuk


Avlana Eisenberg


Co Boi Nguyen