Kalena Bovell


With her distinctive voice as maestra, speaker, and poet, critics praise Panamanian-American conductor Kalena Bovell as “one of the brightest stars in classical music.” (Channel 3 News, Connecticut).  Propelled by a steadfast commitment to musical excellence and community access, her recent achievements include receiving the prestigious 2024 Sphinx Medal of Excellence—the highest honor bestowed by the Sphinx Organization—and becoming the first Black woman to conduct an opera in Canada, conducting a world premiere reimagination of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha.

Bovell’s 2023-2024 season sees her traverse Canada, the U.S. and Switzerland: in North America, including debut performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, Colorado Music Festival, Hamilton Philharmonic, and the Victoria Symphony. Her career has had particularly memorable moments, including leading the Chineke! Orchestra at the BBC Proms and conducting Kevin Thomas’s Firebird with the Collage Dance Collective as a part of the Kennedy Center’s “Reframing the Narrative”. In 2022, her featured appearance on the Chineke! Orchestra’s 2022 album Coleridge-Taylor (Chineke! Records) earned praise as “overflowing with descriptive imagination” from The Financial Times. Until 2023, Bovell made her home in Memphis as Assistant Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Conductor of the MSO Youth Orchestra. There, she led some of the MSO’s more memorable events, from sharing the stage with Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. to conducting former Music Director Mei-Ann Chen’s farewell concerts.

Off the podium, Bovell strives to inspire potential artists from overlooked backgrounds, hoping to help those like herself who entered music later in life than their peers. Her unconventional career path has been chronicled by the BBC, the League of American Orchestras, and similar news outlets, organizations, and universities.