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Thread: Men and Women conductors/concertmasters

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    Senior Member pcnog11's Avatar
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    Question Men and Women conductors/concertmasters

    We all know that the demographic ratio between men and women in professional conducting is obvious. Why is women outnumbered by men? Is it because of tradition? This also apply to concertmasters. In the business or political worlds more and more women are in senior leadership positions. Is the classical music world too 'classic'? I am perplexed.
    "Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." - Ludwig van Beethoven

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    Until recent years there were hardly any women conductors of note, but this has been changing
    lately , and more and more have been achieving international careers .
    Among them : Marin Alsop, of the Baltimore symphony and Sao Palo orchestra of Brazil ,
    Joann Falletta of the Buffalo Philharmonic , Simone Young, who recently stepped down as music director of the Hamburg St. opera and its orchestra after 10 years , where Kent Nagano will succeed her, the Hamburg State Philharmonic , (Australian ) ,
    Susanna Malkki of Finland , recently appointed music director of the Helsinki Philharmonic and who recently made her acclaimed Met debut conducting "L'Amour de Loin " by Kaaia Saariho (only the second opera by a woman composer done by the Met ! ), Lithuanian Mirga Grazynite-Tyla , recently appointed music director of the City of Birmingham symphony in England , Anne Manson, first woman ever to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic , to name only several .
    The glass ceiling is gradually shaking for women conductors . There are a number of women concertmasters in major orchestras, such as the Detroit symphony , but I can't recall any others offhand .
    Simone Young has recently completed a Bruckner symphony cycle with the Hamburg State Philharmonic on if I remember correctly, the Oehms label, which has been well received . This is the first one by a woman conductor .

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    Senior Member pcnog11's Avatar
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    superhorn, thanks for your insights. Good to see many women are moving into leadership positions. We hope in the foreseeable future, we can buy recordings with women conducting as common as their male counterparts.
    "Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." - Ludwig van Beethoven

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    The question is why did it take women so long to become conspicuous in the classical music professions?

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    Even the Vienna Philharmonic has a woman concertmaster now!

    And for something different...

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    Senior Member Gordontrek's Avatar
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    I think it should be considered whether conducting simply tends to appeal to males more than females. Very often I hear of efforts to put more women on the podium and celebrate women conductors, which I think is a wonderful idea. While I will not dispute that sexism exists in the industry, it might be prudent to evaluate how many women go into conducting vs. men in the first place, as one possible explanation for the disparity. As an analogy, look at the nursing field. There are disproportionate numbers of women as compared to men; I don't believe it's due to sexism, but rather that nursing tends to appeal more to women for some reason.
    Where concertmasters are concerned, that is something that I believe involves much more sexism than conducting. A lot of the concertmasters you see in professional orchestras are men that have been there for decades, dating back to when women weren't even allowed in orchestras, or built their resumes in that era. Not just concertmasters, but individual players throughout orchestras worldwide. The Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic are prime examples. As to whether the same degree of discrimination exists today, I'm not sure. It's certainly not like it was, but has probably not completely left.
    All of this to say, sexism exists in the music industry and it needs to be squashed, but I feel like some issues merit a bit more thought before coming to a conclusion of "sexism" right off the bat.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gordontrek View Post
    I think it should be considered whether conducting simply tends to appeal to males more than females. Very often I hear of efforts to put more women on the podium and celebrate women conductors, which I think is a wonderful idea. While I will not dispute that sexism exists in the industry, it might be prudent to evaluate how many women go into conducting vs. men in the first place, as one possible explanation for the disparity. As an analogy, look at the nursing field. There are disproportionate numbers of women as compared to men; I don't believe it's due to sexism, but rather that nursing tends to appeal more to women for some reason.
    The issue is more that there is a long-held concept that certain fields are appropriate for men and women. Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla tells the story of how a woman and her children came up to her after a concert in Los Angeles and told her how great it was for her daughters to see that a woman could be a conductor as they never thought that it was an option. Similarly when Sarah Willis, the only female in the Berlin Phil brass section, tells of how, when she was in school and had to choose a second instrument, she picked the horn, only to have the teacher, a woman, tell her that women didn't play the horn. I suspect that it will take a few generations for those types of subtle selections to disappear.

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    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    Oh, who's counting. Lets not get our underalls in knots. The pendulum shifted some time ago (exact date escapes). For those who want to pursue, avenues are open. Talent and desire rule, not gender.

    Iona Brown and Jeanne Lamon have been orchestra directors for many years. And according to violinist.com contributors, Jorja Fleezanis, Nurit Bar-Josef, Yoonshin Song, Juliana Athayde, Susanna Perry Gilmore, Jessica Hung, Jill Levy, Lisa Morrison, Jessica Matthaes, Borislava Iltcheva, Laura Park Chen, Lauren Roth, Lenora Leggatt, YuMi Hwang-Williams, Dayna Anderson, Isabella Lippi, Denise Couch-Tarrant, Carole Cowan, Diana Cohen, DeAnn Letourneau, Erica Kieswetter, Margaret Batjer, Charlotte Merkerson, Marta Kirk, Elizabeth Pitcairn, Terrie Baune, Dawn Harms, Sarah Kwak, Laura Hilgemann Miller, Aimee Kreston, Gloria Justen, Karen Johnson, Kay Stern, Robin Mayforth, Zofia Glashauser, Masako Yanagita, Amilia Chan, Katherine Winterstein, Akemi Takayama, Ruth Lenz, and others, are or have been Concertmasters.

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    Since I've been in Tennessee, the Nashville Symphony has had associate conductors who were women. Karen Lynne Deal went from there to direct the Illinois Symphony. Kelly Corcoran replaced her and also directed the symphony chorus. She conducted the concerts in the park series and did a great job. She is now artistic director of her own group, Intersection. I just found out they're playing tonight. Rats; I'm missing it. Zeneba Bowers is also artistic director of the ALIAS chamber group. So women have been pretty active around here.

    The concertmaster for a long time was a woman; I forgot her name. But the Frist family bought a Strad for her to play, which was nice of them.
    Last edited by Manxfeeder; Jan-13-2017 at 01:30.

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    The transition to gender-neutral views of musical roles is a long process, but it is working. A man or woman can "find themselves" in anything really, or even feel like they're crossing a bridge. Just some roles have not completely reached that yet. Violin has been a woman's instrument since the Baroque era (think of Vivaldi teaching strings to the girls at the orphanage he worked at), but flute took a long while, until the 20th century. Conducting will take the longest perhaps, but as soon as a large number of women start "seeing themselves" as conductors, rather than feeling that they are doing something outside the norm, that is when the stereotypes truly fall apart. A woman can be a woman as a conductor, not as a "woman trying to be a man," if you get me.
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    ... and, as so often, it seems to work from the bottom up, i.e. the big 10+ orchestras will take the longest.

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    Still waiting for the first great female conductor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcnog11 View Post
    We all know that the demographic ratio between men and women in professional conducting is obvious. Why is women outnumbered by men? Is it because of tradition? This also apply to concertmasters. In the business or political worlds more and more women are in senior leadership positions. Is the classical music world too 'classic'? I am perplexed.
    Great musicians will emerge regardless of sex. Hard to keep great talent down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gordontrek View Post
    I think it should be considered whether conducting simply tends to appeal to males more than females. Very often I hear of efforts to put more women on the podium and celebrate women conductors, which I think is a wonderful idea. While I will not dispute that sexism exists in the industry, it might be prudent to evaluate how many women go into conducting vs. men in the first place, as one possible explanation for the disparity. As an analogy, look at the nursing field. There are disproportionate numbers of women as compared to men; I don't believe it's due to sexism, but rather that nursing tends to appeal more to women for some reason.
    Where concertmasters are concerned, that is something that I believe involves much more sexism than conducting. A lot of the concertmasters you see in professional orchestras are men that have been there for decades, dating back to when women weren't even allowed in orchestras, or built their resumes in that era. Not just concertmasters, but individual players throughout orchestras worldwide. The Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic are prime examples. As to whether the same degree of discrimination exists today, I'm not sure. It's certainly not like it was, but has probably not completely left.
    All of this to say, sexism exists in the music industry and it needs to be squashed, but I feel like some issues merit a bit more thought before coming to a conclusion of "sexism" right off the bat.
    "Sexism" exist but to what degree. I think it varies from one part of the world to another. Stereotyping women is a historical issue since pre-historical times. I think the glass ceiling is breaking and there will be more women in the classical music leadership role. The world is changing faster than we can catch up...will there be a all-female orchestra in the future? Let's see....
    "Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." - Ludwig van Beethoven

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    Just a thought which may or may not be controversial:

    With the whole sexism thing and inclinations in traditional social/sexual norms, why don't people prefer woman conductors, composers, singers, etc. and outside of music. It seems like a contradiction that has been allowed to happen

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