Dr Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey

Dr Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey (BM, MM, MM, MSt, DPhil), is the Director of Performance at St Catherine’s College and a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield, where she is researching the historic and contemporary orchestral practices of Afghanistan. She is the Conducting Fellow of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and Coordinator of the orchestra’s Side-by-Side scheme as well as Director of Research for the Oxford Conducting Institute. 

Her research is focused on the social-psychological and socio-political aspects of orchestral music-making—from the intricacies of co-performer communication in modern and historically informed contexts, to the politics of participation and orchestras' geo-political significance. She explores these questions through a blend of practice-based research and empirical investigation, combining her work as a conductor and performer with academic scholarship. 

Her doctoral research at the University of Oxford explored creativity and authorship in orchestral performance by investigating the influences that shape orchestral players’ musical ‘decision-making’ in rehearsals and performances while her postdoctoral work on the AHRC-funded Transforming 19th-Century Historically Informed Practice studied the consequences for performers and listeners on experimental approaches to 19th-century style, with a focus on the effects of ‘expressive asynchrony’.

Her current Leverhulme research project brings together music scholars and practitioners from Afghanistan now living in exile to write the first book on the orchestral music-making activities of the country. This research is an outgrowth of her initiative which brought the Afghan Women’s Orchestra to Oxford for a 10-day residency in 2019 and subsequent online tutoring of the conducting students at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music until August 2021.

As a conductor, Dr Ponchione-Bailey has a specialism in the works of underrepresented historical composers and has frequently conducted national and regional premieres of historical works including Germaine Tailleferre’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (No. 1) with pianist Daniel Grimwood, Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement with leading Price scholar and pianist Dr Samantha Ege, Grace Williams’ Sea Sketches, Fanny Mendelssohn’s Overture in C, Welsh composer Morfydd Llwyn Owen’s Nocturne, and the symphonies of Louise Farrenc and Florence Price.

A long-time advocate of new music which addresses environmental and social issues, Dr Ponchione-Bailey has commissioned and premiered many new compositions from composers including Nicola LeFanu, Shirley Thompson OBE, Sadie Harrison, Toby Young, Rhian Samuel, Solfa Carlile, and Arson Fahim. A particular focus since 2012 has been to raise awareness about global water security through new orchestral music, including her on-going Water-Culture: Women’s Work(s) commissioning project featuring works by women composers which highlight women’s historic role in domestic water provision, and We Are Water, a collaborative project with the pop band pecq which brings together artists and researchers at the University of Oxford to amplify issues of water security. These compositions have been featured by Gramophone Magazine and in UNESCO’s Global Network of Water Museums. 

Dr Ponchione-Bailey is also committed to fostering intercultural orchestral collaborations, including Arts Council England and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities-funded projects Many Worlds in One Place and Displaced Voices with collaborating composer Toby Young. In partnership with Afghan composer Arson Fahim, she is ensuring that Afghanistan’s orchestral music continues to flourish while censored in its own country through The Orchestral Music of Afghanistan: Looking Forward commissioning and performance project, featured by BBC Radio 3’s ‘Music Matters’, BBC Music Magazine, The Guardian, and The Times

Music at St Catherine’s College
The Orchestras and Orchestral Music of Afghanistan
Transforming 19th-Century HIP
Personal Website


Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2023). Tár: busting the myths the film perpetuates of the all-powerful maestro. The Conversation (online).

Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2022). Hope is essential. The Guardian.

Palmer, F. M., Traill, J., & Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2020). Positioning ‘Conducting Studies’ in 2020: Where are we and were can where can we go?. Music Performance Research, 10, i-viii. doi:10.14439/mpr.10.1. 

Ponchione-Bailey, C. & Clarke, E.F. (2020). Digital methods in the study of the nineteenth-century orchestra. Nineteenth-Century Music Review: The Digital Humanities and the Study of Nineteenth-Century Music, 1-32. doi:10.1017/S1479409819000661.

Ponchione, C. (2013). Exploring a metamorphosis: identity formation for an emerging conductor. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 12, 181–193.

Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2023). Everyday bridges. In A. Bull, L. Nooshin & C. Scharff (Eds.), Voices for change in the classical music profession: New ideas for tackling inequalities and exclusions. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 228-233.

Ponchione-Bailey, C., & Clarke, E.F. (2021). Technologies for investigating large ensemble performance. In R. Timmers, F. Bailes & H. Daffern (Eds.), Together in music: Participation, coordination, and creativity in ensembles. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2018). The body orchestral: the embodied process of orchestral performance. In L. Redhead & R. Glover (Eds.), Collaborative and distributed processes in contemporary music-making. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars (pp. 66–83).

Recordings (conductor credits)
Pecq (2020). Reaching Water [recorded by pecq and the Orchestra of St. John’s, Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, conductor]. Single. Oxford: Upcycled Sounds. (2020). Selected for Gramophone’s ‘Video of the Day’, 27 October 2020.

Pecq (2018). Earth Flow [recorded by pecq and the Orchestra of St. John’s, Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, conductor]. Single. Oxford: Upcycled Sounds. (2020).

Recordings (composer credits)
Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2012). Rumble Stiltskins [recorded by Utari Duo]. On Utari [CD]. Tokyo: ALM Records. (2015).

Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2004). The Creation, for percussion sextet [recorded by the McCormick Percussion Ensemble, Cayenna Ponchione, conductor]. On Marimba Concerti [CD]. Brooklyn, NY: Capstone Records. (2007).

Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2006). Sacred Feast, for solo marimba [recorded by Gilmar Goulart, marimba]. Moods of Marimba [CD]. Brazil: Fonomidia. (2006).

Social-psychological and socio-political aspects of orchestral music-making. From the intricacies of co-performer communication in modern and historically informed contexts, to the politics of participation and orchestras' geo-political significance.