Growing gender parity at orchestras

Posted on: March 31, 2014

In Sunday’s (3/30) St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sarah Bryan Miller reports, “Think back to the symphony orchestra of yesteryear, as seen in Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia: all male, but for two female harpists. Now take a good look at the orchestra of today: In the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, women players outnumber the men. The numbers were 50-50 in 2011-12; women outnumbered men for the first time in 2012-13, with 46 women out of 97 musicians; and this season the breakdown is 45 men and 51 women. Things have changed at orchestras all over the country, if not always to the extent found here. The numbers are largely due to a combination of so-called blind auditions and changing societal attitudes.… Polly Kahn, vice president for learning and leadership development at the League of American Orchestras, says that change began in the 1960s and that ‘at least as of 2013, about 50 percent of the League member orchestras, the country’s top 250 orchestras, have got 50 percent women, including executive directors and musicians. I think we are close to 50 percent (overall) at this point.’ ” The article is accompanied by a second story about the growing numbers of female as administrative and artistic leaders, and by a sidebar comparing gender balance at several orchestras.

Posted March 31, 2014