Director of the Boston College Symphony Orchestra Anna Wittstruck recently received the American Prize in Conducting in the college and university orchestra division.
“Conducting can be sort of a lonely process in terms of feedback,” Wittstruck said. “You’re giving a lot to your orchestras, and your direct effect is sort of an opaque system. I was really surprised and pleased to be getting outside validation for my conducting specifically.”
According to Wittstruck, the American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts celebrates the highest talent in the performing arts, including artists, directors, ensembles, and composers at the professional, college, community, and high school levels.
“It’s a peer-reviewed process—a way to receive feedback from people in your field,” Wittstruck said.
Along with directing the BC Symphony Orchestra, Wittstruck works as an associate professor of the practice in the BC music department.
Wittstruck said she entered the competition about a year ago when she was a professor at the University of Puget Sound in Washington.
“The application process is that you send in video footage of yourself and your ensembles, and then there’s this panel that reviews the footage,” Wittstruck said. “They then narrow it down to a semifinalist pool, then a finalist pool, and then announce the winners.”
After hearing the news that she won the competition, Wittstruck said she was surprised and gratified.
“Some of the people who were finalists, I think very highly of them,” Wittstruck said.
Wittstruck said she was thrilled about the projects she submitted because of the work of her students, as well as her close collaborator Aldo López-Gavilán. Wittstruck said López-Gavilán is a Cuban pianist and composer who was featured as a soloist on one of the pieces she submitted.
“It was one of the most electric, amazing moments in my musical career,” Wittstruck said. “For not just to recognize me and my work, but to also be recognizing the value of that music and his contributions. I was very proud.”
According to Wittstruck, her mentors have come from many different kinds of musical backgrounds, such as composing, performing, teaching, and conducting. Wittstruck said Geoff Nuttall, the first violinist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, had one of the largest impacts on her. Nuttall died in October of 2022.
“When I think about the greatest influence on me on the podium, it’s actually probably him because of all the things I learned from him about being a great chamber musician, playing in a string quartet and translating that and putting that on the podium,” Wittstruck said.
Wittstruck said her dissertation adviser Stephen Hinton at Stanford University also played an integral role in her journey.
“Stephen Hinton really helped me direct my career in a clear, important way,” Wittstruck said.
When looking at the future of her work here at BC, Wittstruck said she hopes to continue covering diverse compositions that are relevant to today’s world.
“I think it’s about what we can do to keep advancing and normalizing this idea of really culturally relevant programming, cross cultural collaborations, and advocating for music by living composers,” Wittstruck said.
Michael Noone, chairperson and professor in the music department, said the University is lucky to have acquired such an accomplished professional to work at the BC music department.
“As she takes up the helm as conductor of the Boston College Symphony Orchestra, Anna will be building a learning environment that models the importance of empathetic listening, leadership and personal responsibility, shared goal-setting and joy, interdependence, and a desire for dialogue through engagement and collaboration,” Noone wrote to The Heights.