ASO Conducting Fellows Program


The Conducting Fellows Program supports the opportunity for promising conductors to hone their craft and enrich their musical experience through mentorship and participation in the Allentown Symphony Association’s orchestral and community programs. 

The Conducting Fellows travel to the Lehigh Valley to work side by side with Allentown Symphony Music Director and Conductor Diane Wittry, in advance of and during the production of a Classical Series Concert. Along the way, they learn intricacies involved in assembling and leading a regional symphony.

Fellows also meet with Association staff in order to learn the range of activities necessary to operate a symphony orchestra. Their visit includes a stop at the exemplary community-based program, El Sistema Lehigh Valley.

We are pleased to announce the Allentown Symphony Conducting Fellows for the 2016-2017 Season:



October 15 & 16, 2016 Concert

Anna Edwards has made a significant impact to the Seattle music scene as a performing artist, orchestra conductor, and music instructor. After performing as a professional violinist and music educator for over 25 years, Anna shifted her focus from instrumentalist to conductor, training with Michael Jinbo at the renowned Pierre Monteux School for three seasons, and receiving a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Washington. She currently balances her time between conducting in the Pacific Northwest, serving as a guest conductor/clinician across the country, and developing young musicians through instruction and collaboration with professionals in concert settings. Anna is the conductor, founder, and music director of the Seattle Collaborative Orchestra (SCO), and she leads the Saratoga Orchestra as their music director. An enthusiastic advocate of women composers and composers from the Pacific Northwest, Anna has commissioned and premiered numerous works, including major compositions by Victoria Bond, Tim Huling, Angelique Poteat, and Sarah Bassingthwaighte. The recipient of numerous awards, Anna was the 1st place-conducting winner in the 2014 American Prize for her work with the SCO, and the SCO itself was awarded 2nd place in the 2014 American Prize for the community orchestra division.



November 5 & 6, 2016 Concert

Benjamin Nilles is the new Artistic Director & Conductor of the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra in Minnesota and is beginning his tenure with their 2016-2017 season. Previously, he was Music Director & Conductor of the Oklahoma City University Symphony Orchestra. He had also held Assistant and Associate Conductor posts with the same orchestra.

During his tenure with the Oklahoma City University Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra reached new heights of ability and became an important fixture in the community and region. The orchestra, routinely asked to be the centerpiece of important historical galas and events, garnered high praise with each performance under Nilles. In addition, as Music Director & Conductor, the university’s production of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci won the National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competition in 2011 and the recording of the 80-minute soundtrack of the historic 1920 movie Daughter of Dawn was selected in 2013 for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress and is now on Netflix.

Nilles has been a mainstay in the recording studio setting. He has led studio orchestras for commercial recordings, including the title track for singer Bryan White’s album Dustbowl Dreams, and full orchestras for soundtracks and premieres. He has also led orchestras for live- concert releases on CD and DVD.

Nilles earned his bachelor’s in music from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and his graduate degree from Oklahoma City University.

He has studied conducting with Bruce Houglum, Mark Parker and Mark Belcik, and has worked with conductors Diane Wittry, Dennis Keene, Sergiu Comissiona, and Bernard Rubenstein. Read more at his website,



February 11 & 12, 2017 Concert

Toru Tagawa has been the Music Director and Conductor of the the Tucson Repertory Orchestra since 2011. His conducting teachers include Thomas Cockrell, Charles Bontrager, Jung-Ho Pak, Maurice Peress and Sandra Dackow.Toru has conducted the Interlochen Repertory Orchestra, the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, Sierra Vista Symphony Orchestra among others. He has participated in conducting workshops at the Juilliard School of Music, and the Queens College, Symposiums in Boston and Chicago and is a member of the Conductors Guild. He was one of the finalists in the American Prize 2014 as a conductor in community orchestra division. Toru is the newly elected President-Elect for the American String Teachers Association, Arizona Chapter, and he is the new Artistic Director of the Sierra Vista Symphony from 2016-2017 season. Toru, from Hiroshima, Japan, started playing the violin at age 6, and joined the Kurashiki Junior Philharmonic Orchestra at age 9. He received his Violin Performance degrees from the University of Tulsa (BM) and the Florida State University (MM), and a Music Education degree (MME) from the University of Arizona. His main violin teachers include Steven Moeckel, Gary Kosloski, Eliot Chapo, Derry Deane, and Mikio Ejima.  Read more at his website,


March 11 & 12, 2017 Concert

A graduate of Magdalen College, University of Oxford, and the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), John Murton began conducting at university, leading six operatic productions and numerous orchestral concerts. In November 2010 he guest conducted the Telford Orchestra and was subsequently invited to become the orchestra’s Conductor, going on to lead the orchestra in events marking its 150th anniversary year. He has lead productions of Viktor Ullmann’s 1943 opera The Emperor of Atlantis at The Cello Factory and Arcola Theatre in London to critical acclaim, and was musical director for Llywelyn Ap Myrddin’s opera The Crocodile as part of the Tête à Tête opera festival at the Riverside Studios in London. Alongside orchestral performances at CCM, John served as Assistant Conductor for the 2016 production of The Cunning Little Vixen. John has studied with Mark Gibson, Paul Brough, and Charles Peebles, and currently resides in Washington D.C.



April 8 & 9, 2017 Concert

Todd Craven is currently Principal Conductor of the New Score Chamber Orchestra in Orlando, Florida, and former Music Director of the Michigan Pops Orchestra at the University of Michigan. Todd began his professional career as Principal Trumpet of the Sarasota Orchestra and was a frequent guest artist at the Sarasota Music Festival. A prize winner of national and international solo competitions, Todd has also performed with such orchestras as the Cincinnati Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and at such festivals as the Spoleto Festival, National Repertory Orchestra and Tanglewood Music Center. Todd made his conducting debut with members of the Sarasota Orchestra and chorus in Maurice Durufle’s Requiem in 2012, and has since conducted orchestras in Poland, Russia and the Ukraine. In 2016-17 he will be a conducting fellow at the Allentown Symphony in Pennsylvania. Todd received a B.M. and M.M. in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Michigan and M.M. from Indiana University in trumpet performance.