Female conductors making inroads

Posted on: September 24, 2009

“Life as a young conductor is never easy,” writes Anastasia Tsioulcas late Wednesday (9/23) on Variety.com. “But for some emerging artists, their foothold might still be even more tenuous simply because of their gender. Historically, few female conductors have made much headway either in the U.S. or internationally. … Two decades ago, a small cadre of vibrant young artists was beginning to breach the gender gap. Foremost among them was Marin Alsop, a fantastically vibrant protégé of Leonard Bernstein who in 2007 became artistic director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and who the same year was the first conductor to win a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant. Alsop’s contemporaries include JoAnn Falletta, who has been music director at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra since 1999, and the Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, whose summer just included appearances at Munich’s hallowed Bavarian State Opera. … These days, still less than 20% of conductor doctoral degrees go to women. According to the League of American Orchestras, not even 12% of American orchestras of any size are headed by women. Ever so slowly, though, it seems as if the tide finally might be starting to turn. This past March, Chinese-born conductor Xian Zhang was named as music director of Milan’s Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra—the first time a woman achieved such a post in Italy. … Within the U.S., three women have recently won artistic director spots at smaller regional ensembles: Laura Jackson at the Reno Philharmonic; Lisbon, Portugal, native Joana Carneiro at the Berkeley Symphony; and Elizabeth Schulze at the Flagstaff Symphony.”

Photo credit: Grant Leighton

Posted September 24, 2009