Maria Sensi Sellner is recognized for her artistry and versatility as a conductor of opera, orchestras, and choruses. Praised as “mightily impressive”, she was the first three-time winner of the American Prize for Opera Conducting. Ms. Sellner is the Artistic & General Director of Resonance Works Pittsburgh, a multi-modal performing arts company that she founded in 2013. She is also active as a freelance conductor, cover conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and Artistic Administrator for the Blackburn Music Academy at Festival Napa Valley. In the fall of 2018, she made her debut with the Dallas Opera Orchestra as one of six international conductors selected for the Hart Institute for Women Conductors.
Ms. Sellner previously held positions as Director of the Akron Symphony Chorus, Acting Music Director of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (chorus of choice of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra), Artistic Advisor for Hubbard Hall Opera, and interim faculty at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music. Past engagements have included Syracuse Opera, the Center for Contemporary Opera, Symphoria, the Akron Symphony Orchestra, the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, Boston Opera Collaborative, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, and Hubbard Hall Opera Theater, among others. In 2016, Ms. Sellner was on the conducting team for the world premiere of “the public domain” by David Lang, a piece written for 1000 volunteer singers and performed on the plaza during the 50th anniversary of the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. The premiere was hailed by the New York Times as the “most inspiring feel-good performance of 2016.”
As Artistic & General Director of Resonance Works Pittsburgh, the company which she founded in 2013, Ms. Sellner developed a unique programming model which draws on the entirety of classical music to engage audiences with relevant and compelling musical experiences. Now in its 7th season, Resonance Works showcases an orchestra, chorus, vocal soloists, chamber musicians, staged opera, and musical theater – often on the same program - and has been recognized as having “demonstrated an innovative streak in its musical programming earning its own niche in the city’s concert landscape." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
With Resonance Works, Ms. Sellner has conducted the American premiere of Sir James MacMillan’s Gloria and a number of Pittsburgh premieres including David Lang’s little match girl passion and Dvořák’s Rusalka. Recent collaborators have included Texture Contemporary Ballet, the cello rock band Cello Fury, the University of Pittsburgh Department of Theatre Arts, The Brass Roots, Pittsburgh’s Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) High School, the voice department of Slippery Rock University, photographer Chuck Beard, painter Baron Batch, the Homewood Cemetery Historical Fund, and guest artists including Pittsburgh Symphony trumpeter Neal Berntsen and principal flutist Lorna McGhee, flamenco dancer Fanny Ara (seen on NBC’s “World of Dance”), members of the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus, and internationally renowned Baroque flutist Stephen Schultz.
Ms. Sellner’s work with choruses is highly praised by colleagues and critics alike. She has prepared choirs for maestri including Manfred Honeck, Gerard Schwarz, Carl Topilow, Christopher Wilkins, Daniel Meyer, and Todd Ellison. Her choirs have been praised for being “strong and responsive”, and she was lauded for “really transform[ing] the Akron Symphony Chorus.” (Cleveland Classical). As Acting Music Director for the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh in the 2015-16 season, she prepared the chorus for four programs with the Pittsburgh Symphony, including a staged production of Bach’s St. John Passion for which the choir was hailed as “magnificent” and performing with “superb dramatic thrust” (Pittsburgh Tribune Review).
On the orchestral podium, Ms. Sellner regularly conducts the Resonance Chamber Orchestra in a vibrant range of repertoire from Bach to Shostakovich, Pergolesi to Respighi, Copland, and Mahler. During her six-year tenure with the Akron Symphony Chorus, Ms. Sellner conducted both classical and pops subscription concerts with the Akron Symphony Orchestra. Previously, Ms. Sellner was Music Director of the All University Orchestras at Carnegie Mellon for ten years. She has also been invited to conduct in orchestral masterclasses around the US and in the UK. Most notably, in 2008 and 2009, she conducted on the Discovery Series Concerts at the Oregon Bach Festival as a part of the masterclass with conductor Helmuth Rilling.
Ms. Sellner holds masters degrees in conducting (studying with Robert Page), composition, and mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. A native of western Pennsylvania, Ms. Sellner resides in Pittsburgh with her Roboticist husband, Brennan, and their Havanese puppy, Lucy.