Oscars to Feature Female Orchestra Conductor for the First Time

Irish-born composer-conductor Eímear Noone will conduct excerpts from the five nominated scores.

Conductor and Composer Eímear Noone pictured
Steve Humphreys

A woman will be conducting at the Oscars for the first time on Sunday, Feb. 9, the Academy announced today.

Irish-born composer-conductor Eímear Noone will conduct excerpts from the five nominated scores. She is the first female to lead the orchestra in the history of the televised awards, the Academy said.

Details beyond that are sketchy, sources indicated. It is not clear whether all five themes will be presented as a medley or separately, or whether the 42-piece Oscar orchestra will be onstage at the Dolby Theatre or in the pit.

Reached this morning in Dublin, Noone tells Variety: “The wonderful producers at the Oscars decided that they would like to finally see a female presence on the podium after all these years.”

She praised Oscar musical director Rickey Minor as “an amazing kindred spirit who endeavors to elevate music and musicians at every possible turn.”

Minor is expected to conduct the rest of the show, as he did during his initial Oscar gig last year. “[How] generous he is, to hand over this incredibly poignant moment, as these [composers] are my heroes and she-roes, who will be sitting in the audience, whose music I get to interpret,” Noone adds.

Asked if, despite her long experience leading orchestras, she will find conducting the Oscars a nerve-wracking experience, she responds: “I’d be dead inside if I didn’t have any concerns. Luckily for me, I have friends in the orchestra and I have friends on the page in front of me. The background changes, but the little black dots on the page are always home for me. No matter what country I’m in or what concert hall, it doesn’t matter – the score is where my mind and my heart are.”

Noone,  who along with her husband, composer-producer Craig Stuart Garfinkle, divides her time between homes in Dublin and California, conducts 40 to 50 concerts a year around the world. She has conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, National Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic of London and the Sydney Symphony in Australia, among others.

She was the first woman to conduct at Dublin’s National Concert Hall, and for four years she conducted the Dublin City Concert Orchestra, an ensemble she founded at 21 for the performance of film music. A frequent conductor of Video Games Live, she is widely considered the world’s premier conductor of video game scores.

“It’s an honor to be there, to help normalize something that I do every day,” she notes. “Little girls everywhere will see this and say, ‘I think I’ll do that.’ That’s what we want.”