As part of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s ongoing commitment to fostering increased diversity, equity and inclusion within the orchestral field, today the orchestra announces the appointment of Fernanda Lastra as Conductor Diversity Fellow. Her contract will begin in September 2022.
The Conductor Diversity Fellow position is a two-year fellowship providing a challenging and professional work experience with the BPO while serving to engage with all parts of Buffalo’s diverse community in a meaningful way. Lastra will participate in structured training and professional development while functioning as a member of the BPO’s artistic team, and will be an active member of the BPO’s Diversity Council.
“Fernanda is a serious and deeply gifted conductor who will be a superb addition to our BPO family,” said Music Director JoAnn Falletta. “The musicians and I look forward to working together with her over the next two years, and warmly welcome her.”
Lastra, who hails from Mar del Plata, Argentina, was selected from a competitive slate of candidates who came to Buffalo for a closed conducting audition. Each candidate had an opportunity to conduct the orchestra, deliver a speaking presentation to members of the orchestra, artistic leadership team and Diversity Council, and take part in an interview process.
Through May 2022, Lastra serves as Director of Orchestras at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, where she leads the symphony and chamber orchestras. She also serves as Assistant Conductor for the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra, and from 2018-2020, served as the conductor of the UI Opera program. As a conductor and educator, Lastra served as Principal Conductor for the Central Pennsylvania Youth Orchestra during the 2016-2017 season, as Professor of Orchestral Activities of a program inspired by El Sistema in Argentina from 2008-2012, and as music faculty at La Plata University from 2005-2016. For four years, Lastra served as Musical and Artistic Director of an instrumental training ensemble she founded in Argentina in 2013. Through this project, she fostered community appreciation for classical music through a broad array of repertoire and active participation in city festivals and cultural events.
Lastra earned two bachelor’s degrees from La Plata University in orchestral and choral conducting, and a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from Penn State University. She is trained in piano and viola, and is currently completing doctoral studies in orchestral conducting at the University of Iowa under the mentorship of Dr. Mélisse Brunet, Dr. William LaRue Jones and Prof. David Becker. Her musical interests encompass a vast repertoire including symphonic, contemporary and opera works. She is a passionate advocate for Latin American composers, especially those from Argentina.
“It is my great honor to conduct this world-renowned orchestra, but also to take part in such an important fellowship that is making diversity in the orchestra field transformational,” said Lastra. “One challenge I have experienced is the possibility of incorporating the mentorship and perspective of underrepresented conductors. Through this position, I hope to learn and grow as an artist, and lend a voice to expand our collective engagement and cultural experiences. I can’t wait to begin this journey with the BPO!”
“The Conductor Diversity Fellowship serves an important role in the Orchestra’s mission to diversify the classical music field and connect with our community,” said Rev. Dr. Melody Rutherford, Chair of the BPO Diversity Council. “We’ve had great success in bringing on Jaman E. Dunn, now Assistant Conductor, who will be with us through the end of the summer. Watching him grow and do impactful work in our community has confirmed the value and potential afforded by supporting a fellowship. Through this two-year position, we are supporting the development of young conductors and continually adding to the diverse pipeline coming up in the orchestra field today. We look forward to carrying on the tradition of success with Fernanda Lastra.”
To learn more about the BPO’s commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion and access, please visit bpo.org/idea.
Media inquiries: Contact Patrick O’Herron, vice president, marketing & communications