top of page

About the Conductors

About Bruce Sorrell

Under the direction of Bruce Sorrell, the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra has been repeatedly recognized for excellence. In August 2013, The Kansas City Star reviewer raved, “The orchestra’s performance of Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C major was as exciting an event as I’ve heard in Helzberg
Hall . . . ” Sorrell founded the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra in 1987 and 2018-2019 marks his 32nd season with the ensemble.

Over nearly three decades, he has led highly acclaimed performances of symphonies by Beethoven, Schumann, Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Haydn. He has been consistently praised for his interpretations of music from the late Baroque period. Not limited to this repertoire, he has conducted works by Britten, Stravinsky, Maxwell-Davies, Zwilich, Locklair, Jean Belmont Ford, and Forrest Pierce. His education concerts have been

enthusiastically received by school students and teachers, and he is also a popular pre-concert lecturer and community speaker.

Sorrell has conducted several highly successful collaborations with the Kansas City Chorale, including performances of Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, portions of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and Vivaldi’s Gloria. He was a frequent guest conductor of the Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City. In partnership with Paul Mesner Puppets, he co-produced and conducted puppet versions of The Mikado and Hansel and Gretel. Sorrell was director of choirs at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City from 1992 to 2012.

Sorrell’s work with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra has been recognized by many Kansas City organizations. In May 1997, the Kansas City Musical Club honored Sorrell with its annual award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the cultural life of Kansas City. In February 2000, he was presented the Citation for Achievement, for accomplishments and contributions in the arts, by William Jewell College, the highest alumni award the college bestows. The Kansas City Alumnae of Sigma Alpha Iota, International Music Fraternity, honored Sorrell in June 2000 as a National Arts Associate. 

In 2008, he produced and conducted a recording with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra and internationally renowned Celtic folk singer and recording artist, Connie Dover. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Sorrell earned his bachelor’s degree in music performance from William Jewell College and studied at Oxford University, England. He earned the Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting from Southern Methodist University in Dallas where he studied with Anshel Brusilow, and did further advanced conducting studies with Frank Shipway in London, England. 

Sorrell was appointed Executive Director of Chamber Music Tulsa in 2012, a position he holds concurrently with his role as Music Director and Conductor of the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra. 

About Carolyn Watson

Carolyn Watson is Music Director of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra. Originally from Australia, Carolyn has been based in the United States since 2013 during which time she has led performances with the Austin Symphony, Cape Symphony, Catskill Symphony, Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra, Interlochen Philharmonic, Kansas City Ballet, St. Joseph Symphony, Traverse Symphony Orchestra and World Youth Symphony Orchestra. Recruited internationally as Music Director of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra, she won the 2015 American Prize for Orchestral Performance with this ensemble, also collaborating with soloists including Mark O’Connor and Alexandre Tharaud during her tenure. Carolyn continues to enjoy an ongoing association with Interlochen as conducting faculty at Interlochen Arts Camp.

Watson High Res_reduced.jpg

An experienced conductor of opera, recent engagements have seen Carolyn lead Listen, Wilhemina! for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Hansel and Gretel for Amarillo Opera and Fellow Travelers at Des Moines Metro Opera, along with a production of As One. In 2020 she conducted ‘And Still we Dream’ for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, a production which was featured in the Emmy-Award winning PBS documentary, Higher Octaves: Leading Women in the Arts. In 2019 Carolyn was engaged to conduct the world premiere of Gordon Getty’s opera at Festival Napa Valley, and in 2017 she was one of six conductors selected for the Hart Institute for Women Conductors, where she led the Dallas Opera in two public performances.

A major prizewinner at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest, notable European credits include Infektion!, a festival of modern theatre celebrating the works of John Cage at the Staatsoper Berlin, conducting musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic in Interaktion, a residency at the Israeli National Opera, and assisting Sir Charles Mackerras on his final two productions at The Royal Opera, Covent Garden and Glyndebourne. Additional international conducting credits include the Brandenburger Symphoniker, BBC Concert Orchestra, Budapest Operetta Theatre, Bulgarian State Opera Bourgas, Duna Szimfonikus Budapest, North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Kammerphilharmonie Graz, Kodály Philharmonia Debrecen, Mihail Jora Philharmonic Romania, Savaria Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and in Russia, the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic. In Australia she has worked with the Darwin Symphony, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Monash Academy Orchestra, Sydney Symphony, Tasmania Discovery Orchestra and Willoughby Symphony.

A committed music educator, Carolyn currently serves as Director of Orchestras at the University of Illinois whilst continuing to enjoy an active freelance career throughout the US, Europe and Australia. Carolyn was a Fellow of the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival where she studied with David Zinman, and has participated in master classes with Marin Alsop, Peter Eötvös, Yoel Levi, Martyn Brabbins and Alex Polishchuk.

Carolyn conducting_v1_reduced.jpg

Carolyn is the recipient of a number of prestigious national and international awards for young conductors including the Brian Stacey Award for emerging Australian conductors, Sir Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize awarded via the Australian Music Foundation in London, Opera Foundation Australia’s Bayreuth Opera Award and Berlin New Music Opera Award and the Nelly Apt Conducting Scholarship. She is the beneficiary of support from the American Australian Association's Dame Joan Sutherland Fund and a Sheila Pryor Study Grant from the Australian Opera Auditions Committee. She is also a Churchill Fellow, and was the recipient of a Creative Fellowship from the State Library of Victoria. In 2021 Carolyn was named a finalist in the Arts category of the Australian government Advance Awards, an international award which recognizes leading global Australians of excellence.

Carolyn holds a PhD in Performance (Conducting) from the University of Sydney where she studied under Imre Palló. The subject of her doctoral thesis was Gesture as Communication: The Art of Carlos Kleiber. 

Visit Carolyn's site at

bottom of page