UI School of Music selects first woman to direct orchestral activities

Mélisse Brunet, a conductor from Paris, will join the UI School of Music as the director of Orchestral Activities this fall.



Delaney Orewiler, Arts Reporter

The University of Iowa School of Music took to Facebook last week to announce its next Director of Orchestral Activities, Professor Mélisse Brunet.

Originally from Paris, Brunet currently serves as the director of Orchestral Activities at Appalachian State University and director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic. She will become the first woman to direct orchestral activities at the UI this fall, confirmed Katie Buehner, head of the UI Rita Benton Music Library.

Brunet began her music career at age 7 at a music school in Paris. She started teaching by the time she was 17-years-old, and hasn’t stopped since.

“As a young teenager, I just knew it [conducting] was it,” Brunet said. “Art is a way of expressing your feelings and problems in a safe way and I’ve always loved sharing my vision. Teaching and conducting is a way in which I can do both.”

She received the 2019 Outstanding Teaching Excellence Award from Appalachian State University and became the first woman to direct the UI’s Orchestral Activities after a multiple-round hiring process alongside three other finalists, said School of Music Director Tammie Walker.

“We thought it was a very equitable and fair cross section of the talent we have nationwide, and, at the end of the day, the decision was made based on the feedback from our students,” Walker said.

One of Brunet’s Appalachian State University students, junior Alexis Loveland, said Brunet inspired her to go into conducting.

“I had always considered conducting, but I was hesitant as a woman,” Loveland said. “[Brunet] has shown me that not only can I make a career in a male-dominated field, but that I can motivate future women to do the same.”

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In addition to paving the way for female musicians, Brunet has motivated her students to aspire to greatness. Another one of her students, Matthew Wise, said she helped him realize his full potential.

“I didn’t have high expectations for myself, but she’s a very encouraging person, and she has high expectations which made me raise my own,” Wise said. “That’s carried over to trying to do better in all aspects of my life.”

Both Loveland and Wise commented on Brunet’s infectious positivity, saying that one of her most common phrases is “just go for it.”

Brunet offered advice for women striving to be part of the music field and noted that she has faced hardships as a woman in the industry, but that her experience shaped her into the person she is today.

“Even if you get 3,000 ‘no’s, you keep going,” Brunet said. “Believe in your instinct, find mentors in your field, and go realize your dreams.”

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Brunet invited all students to join one of her orchestras in the fall, even those who are not majoring in music.

“Music is for everyone,” Brunet said, “it heals your soul.”