Women on the Podium: It's About Time
I know I have written before about the topic of female conductors, and how this area has so completely changed during my professional life. But I have to raise it again because, well, it raised itself, in March and April.
I think I noted before that in the first (approximately)
twenty years of my career in music, and even in my student days of
concertgoing, I had experienced a total of fewer than a half dozen female
conductors - and that's over hundreds and hundreds of concerts and opera
performances. I can remember only four: Sarah Caldwell, Antonia Brico, Eve
Queler, and Judith Somogyi. The last of these would likely have had the biggest
international career had she not died tragically of cancer in her early
forties, shortly after being appointed principal conductor of the Frankfurt
Opera. (An American! And a Woman! In the late 1970s in
Well, in the months of March and April, 2008, I saw four
different women on the podium - three of them conducting their own orchestras
(Janna Hymes in
It is, of course, about time. Anyone who denies that there was bias, severe bias, in the music world against the idea of women on the podium is either remarkably naïve or lying (or, I suppose, both). Even as the degree of bias began to lessen, the situation was self-fulfilling: Why would a woman study conducting when there were no opportunities to make a career in it?
But look at the situation today. At the Reno Philharmonic,
three of the five final candidates for music director are women. Two of six in
If I sound surprised, it is only because I know how strong the bias was for a very long time in the symphonic world. And to see it change so dramatically during my own professional lifetime is extremely heartening and gratifying.