Ravinia Festival’s inaugural “Breaking Barriers” event focuses on opportunities for women conductors

Posted on: July 25, 2022

Ravinia Festival Chief Conductor and Curator Marin Alsop leads a rehearsal in the pavilion in Highland Park, Illinois. Photo: Brian Rich / Chicago Sun-Times

“The Ravinia Festival addresses … discrimination head-on with ‘Breaking Barriers: Women on the Podium,’ a mini-festival July 29-31 that includes two Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts, a symposium … an outdoor historical display and a dozen or so other offerings,” writes Kyle MacMillan in Friday’s (7/22) Chicago Sun-Times. “The unfair hurdles female conductors face are made starkly clear in 2016 statistics (the latest available) from the League of American Orchestras that showed that at 174 reporting ensembles, just 9% of music directors were women. ‘Breaking Barriers’ is the brainchild of Marin Alsop, Ravinia’s chief conductor and curator.… When Alsop entered the conducting profession … she assumed that waves of other women would follow. ‘I was very naïve,’ Alsop said…. Only with the emergence of the #MeToo movement in 2017 and the gender discussions it has sparked have opportunities for women conductors finally surged.… This mini-festival marks [Alsop’s Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship’s] 20th anniversary, and at least 14 of the 30 women who have won fellowships or related awards are scheduled to take part…. Ravinia plans to continue ‘Breaking Barriers’ in future seasons, focusing on other groups that have struggled to find a place in classical music.”