Joana Carneiro Photo: Travis Jensen
Joana Carneiro (Photo: Travis Jensen)

Women to Watch: Joana Carneiro

Women to Watch: Joana Carneiro

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Welcome to KQED Arts’ Women to Watch, a series celebrating 20 local women artists, creatives and makers who are pushing boundaries in 2016. Driven by passion for their own disciplines, from photography to comedy and every other medium in between, these women are true vanguards paving the way in their respective communities.

Joana Carneiro is one of those precocious people who ends up on virtually all of those "Top 10" lists in her field. The Portuguese-born orchestral conductor has been a prominent, part-time resident of the Bay Area since she became the Berkeley Symphony's music director in 2009.

When she's not at home in Lisbon or waving her baton around here, Carneiro jet-sets around the globe for conducting gigs. Her collaborators include some of the world's greatest classical music institutions and artists, such as the English National Opera, Prague Philharmonia, composer John Adams and director Peter Sellars.

Where do you live?

I am originally from Lisbon, Portugal. I work in Berkeley, Lisbon and many other cities around the world.


Describe yourself in one word?


What did you do last night?

Studied for today´s rehearsal.

What can’t you live without?


If you could travel any where in the world, where would it be?

Other than Lisbon and Berkeley? Chicago.

Joana Carneiro
Joana Carneiro (Photo: Travis Jensen)

Who is your personal hero? Why?

It is very difficult to choose just one: Finnish composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (who personifies excellence and what it means to be a great artist in the 21st century), U.S. composer John Adams (For his genius and for advancing music in such a beautiful, profound way; I am convinced the way we look at Strauss today is the same way we will admire Adams in a few decades to come), and U.S. stage director Peter Sellars (one of the most inspired and generous souls I have ever had the privilege to encounter in my life; his contributions to performing arts and to human thought are priceless).

How did you find your creative voice?

I am very much still trying to find it. I see myself more as a vehicle of creation than a creator.

Joana Carneiro
Joana Carneiro (Photo: Travis Jensen)

What is something most people don't know about you?

That I enjoy watching soccer very, very much.

What do you do when you feel uninspired?

I watch videos of great conductors, especially those of Indian conductor Zubin Mehta.

What's your biggest 'learning moment', and what did you you take from that experience?
There are too many to choose from, mostly to do with repertoire choices and moments that I pushed too hard or not enough.

What’s your greatest achievement and how has it shaped you?

I really do not have an idea of what that would be. I really don´t think of myself that way.

Do you prefer Coffee or Tea?

What kind? I go through coffee periods and tea periods. I like any kind of coffee and I would say Earl Grey is my favorite tea.

What does a perfect day look like for you?

Most days are quite perfect for me -- any day I am with my husband, other family and friends, and in which I am able to part of the creation of beauty.

Joana Carneiro
Joana Carneiro (Photo: Travis Jensen)

Who are your local inspirations?

The Berkeley Symphony for sure! And all our wonderful supporters.

Favorite meal?

Anything with bacon and whipped cream.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

With my family and conducting beautiful music.

If you could live in a book, TV show, movie, play, song or painting what would it be?

I think a movie/show/book related to medicine, as I did not finish medical school and I miss it.

Curious about who else made the list? Check out the Women to Watch series page, including photo galleries, interviews, and videos.

Do you know a Bay Area artist who is doing amazing things? We want to hear from you! Highlight her efforts using #BayBrilliant.