Her journey with music began when she was young, because she was born into a family of musicians. Her mother, a pianist, and her father, a conductor, met at the Juilliard School of Music, and Canellakis followed in their footsteps studying music.
She played the violin and graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2004. As a violinist she has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Academy. She also performed widely as a soloist and chamber musician before conducting became her main focus.
Encouraged to pursue conducting by Sir Simon Rattle, she honed her craft studying at the Juilliard School from 2011 to 2013, and has studied conducting with Alan Gilbert and Fabio Luisi among others. She won the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship in 2013, and went on to win the prestigious Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award in 2016.
From 2014 to 2016, she was assistant conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. She has also guest conducted many leading orchestras around the world, including Classic FM’s Orchestra in the City of London, the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), and the symphony orchestras of Montréal, Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Detroit.
The conductor once said in an interview with the LSO, “honestly I think I probably always wanted to be a conductor and just didn’t know it. It was a long, gradual, non-linear process for me, discovering my true musical self along the way.”
In 2019, Canellakis was named chief conductor of Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, becoming the first female conductor in the role, or that of any Dutch orchestra. The same year, she became principal guest conductor of Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra.
She was announced as principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2020, a post she took up for the orchestra’s 2021/22 season.
The 2021/22 orchestral season also saw Canellakis make her conducting debuts with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra among others.
Did you know?
In 2018, Karina Canellakis became the first woman to ever conduct the Nobel Prize Concert, conducting the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic.