Oscars to feature a female orchestra conductor for first time in history

24 January 2020, 11:49 | Updated: 10 February 2020, 12:52

Eímear Noone to conduct the 42-piece Oscar orchestra
Eímear Noone to conduct the 42-piece Oscar orchestra. Picture: Steve Humphreys

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Irish-born composer-conductor and Classic FM presenter, Eímear Noone, will make history in leading the orchestra at the 92nd Academy Awards.

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

Eímear Noone will conduct excerpts from the five nominated scores, making her the first woman to lead the 42-piece orchestra in the history of the televised ceremony, the Academy has confirmed.

The Irish-born composer-conductor, who was written award-winning scores for World of Warcraft and Warlords of Draenor, has been described as ‘the Irish Queen of Game Music’ and is one of the video game industry’s most recognised composers.

Away from her successes on the podium, Noone also presents Classic FM’s ground-breaking show dedicated to video game musicHigh Score.

Speaking to Classic FM, Noone said: “It is an honour to be invited to conduct some of the finest orchestral musicians in the world in representing the work of the film industry’s most iconic composers. Such a celebratory philosophy is very familiar at Classic FM and is the inspiration and energy behind all of our work.”

In an interview with Variety, Noone confirmed: “The wonderful producers at the Oscars decided that they would like to finally see a female presence on the podium after all these years.”

Oscars music director Rickey Minor, who arranged and conducted the music at the 91st Academy Awards, is expected to conduct the rest of the ceremony. Noone described her colleague as “an amazing kindred spirit who endeavors to elevate music and musicians at every possible turn.”

Read more: John Williams receives 52nd Oscar nod for ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ >

Asked if she was nervous about the ceremony, Noone told the magazine: “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 conducts 40 to 50 concerts a year around the world and has conducted some of the world’s greatest orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, National Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic of London and the Sydney Symphony in Australia.

Eímear Noone is the first woman to conduct at the Oscars
Eímear Noone is the first woman to conduct at the Oscars. Picture: Getty

Noone is also primary conductor for Video Games Live, the longest-running orchestral touring show, and has conducted some of the greatest pieces in classical repertoire including Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Dvořák’s ‘New World’ Symphony and the Los Angeles Ballet’s inaugural production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

Alongside her success in video game music, she has written extensively for film, having worked on scores for the thrillers Mirrors and The Hole.

Read more: Hildur Guðnadóttir is first woman to win ‘Best Score’ at Golden Globes >

In the ceremony, she will conduct excerpts from all the Academy’s nominated scores including Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Golden Globe-winning Joker soundtrack and John Williams’ final Star Wars score, The Rise of Skywalker.

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