Discussing the gender gap in world’s great orchestras

Posted on: September 14, 2010

In the October issue of Strings magazine, Rory Williams writes, “The Association of the Vienna Philharmonic has long been regarded as a boys’ club as evidenced by its membership, which to this day includes just three women out of 124 musicians. The Vienna Phil only began admitting female players in 1997. So, the Associated Press announcement in March that the 168-year-old ensemble appointed its first permanent female concertmaster arrived as a shocker. There was just one problem: the report wasn’t true, as Musical America’s Susan Elliott was the first to point out. … While it appears to be an honest mistake by the AP, the misreported announcement highlighted the continued under-representation of women in the Vienna Philharmonic and elsewhere. … Stateside, gender imbalance also is a problem, if not so blatantly as in the Vienna Phil. … The latest available survey by the League of American Orchestras shows that across all US orchestras in the 2007–08 season, women accounted for 48.63 percent of the musicians. In smaller orchestras, women accounted for 78 percent. … Polly Kahn, the League’s vice president of Learning and Leadership Development, keeps it positive. She points out that as of April 2010, 70 principal players in ‘group-one orchestras’ are women. … The issue, according to Kahn, boils down to tenure. ‘When players get into our larger-budget orchestras, they tend to stay there for decades and decades,’ she says. Violinist Jorja Fleezanis spent two decades as concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra—the longest-tenured concertmaster in that ensemble’s history.”

Posted September 14, 2010