About Cascade Conducting

Cascade Conducting was conceived by Paula Nava Madrigal and Teo Benson in 2017 and is officially a project of the Ballard Civic Orchestra, a non-profit organization whose fiscal sponsor is the Whidbey Island Waldorf School.  Nava Madrigal, who moved to Seattle from Guadalajara, Mexico in 2014, is the conductor and music director of the Ballard Civic Orchestra and a continuing student of conducting, attending conducting workshops around the world.  Benson is the concertmaster of the Ballard Civic Orchestra, and a violinist in Symphony Tacoma, where Sarah Ioannides is music director.

Inspired by her conducting and her passion for music, Cascade Conducting was truly formed upon receipt of the knowledge that Ioannides was enthusiastic about the prospect of teaching the masterclass.  Ioannides is considered one of the top conductors in the Pacific Northwest and one of the top 20 female conductors worldwide.

Together, Ioannides, Nava Madrigal, and Benson crafted a unique mission for Cascade Conducting: seeking to find balance between the demands of the business, and the preservation of one’s individual musicianship as a necessity to achieve excellence.  In the words of Ioannides:

I am thrilled to take this opportunity to share with conductors of all levels my experience and to have the chance to help train a new generation of conductors.

I myself worked with and studied at great length with many different teachers, who brought to me very individual approaches to training of a conductor. Some broadened my conducting language and techniques, some helped me understand harmony and phrasing in a new light, some shared great philosophical thought on the leadership role, some prepared me for the daunting tasks of score study and how to prepare sufficiently (if there is such an end point), and others helped open new ways of listening to balance within the orchestra, stylistic interpretation, color variety and depth of dynamics, while from others I learnt how to prepare and lead rehearsals efficiently, transition tempi, or prepare new tempi preciseley, or to breathe with the music, to accompany well or to work with all types of musicians both vocal and instrumental. Again, this list is endless and I am still benefitting in my work from the endless lessons I received.

I wish to share the knowledge that has been passed on to me by great conductors, such as Otto-Werner Mueller, Pierre Boulez, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Paavo Järvi, and the Musin school of conducting, George Hurst, Christopher Seaman  & Helmuth Rilling, among others.

However, this course is also designed to help each individual to find their own unique and successful path as a musician and conductor.  For through what is undoubtedly a very challenging business, yet a highly worthwhile and valuable art form, one has to stay true to the music throughout.  Preserving one’s own talent, faith to the music, and performance integrity while navigating a successful path forward is imperative, so that great symphonic music can live on and not only be cherished by generations to come, but be a more relevant and effective platform for peace, expression, and understanding of our world.” 

~ Sarah Ioannides


The second annual Cascade Conducting Masterclass at Pacific Lutheran University will feature 15 principal members of Symphony Tacoma and marks the second of many expected events inspired by the ideas of the founding members of Cascade Conducting.