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College launches short course for women conductors

In what looks like a knee-jerk response to Jude Kelly’s attention-seeking speeches at London’s South Bank, Morley College has  announced a short course for young women conductors, aged 16-19, led by conductor Alice Farnham.

The plus side is that Sian Edwards (below) will be guest teaching. The minus is that Jude Kelly will be given another platform for her antediluvian misperceptions. Details here.

sian edwards

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Comments

  1. William Chorley says:

    I think you are wrong about Jude Kelly. The rest is noise series was largely her doing and was internationally regarded as probably the best classical music festival anywhere in 2013.

    • Moneypenny says:

      Pffffffttt – the credit for Rest is Noise should largely go to Gillian Moore and her brilliant team

  2. Norman, I’ve been to a couple of Jude Kelly’s women in music discussion groups now and have found them inspiring, nuanced, balanced and constructive and I hugely admire her for setting the agenda in this way. Sadly, there is still much evidence that it is a necessary agenda, whether it’s on behalf of female conductors, composers, session players or orchestral players. I don’t always agree with the conclusions – I’m not sure I really see the point of a female conducting class or composer awards, for example, but it’s vitally important to debate the status quo at least. I know I’ve had to challenge my own thinking with The Strad, and that’s a good thing!

    • Ariane, more and more orchs are run by women. Many will soon have a majority of female players. Jude’s perspective is old-hat. The future is bright.

      • Sure, but female session players still get hit on by fixers and I’ve heard anecdotes of orchestral players being hit on by conductors, with managers not daring to say anything in fear of rocking the boat. And then there are the comments I’ve heard about women getting where they are because of their looks, ignoring the fact that they’re fabulous players. Or comments about their looks full stop. Or women who get passed over because they don’t look fabulous. And that’s not to say it’s not increasingly hard for men on the looks front. The point is that these are all good conversations to have, and that’s what Jude seems to be facilitating. Don’t forget she also set up a ‘Being a Man’ festival!

        • I think it’s fair to say that to the extent this happens, it happens when the boot is on the other foot, too.

      • Young women are rarely considering conducting and the numbers clearly show that. We feel it is high time this changed. When I graduated twenty years ago and was thinking about becoming a conductor, I never imagined that in 2014 there would still be so few of us. We are starting this programme to encourage talented young women to consider it. It is no good demanding that orchestras and opera companies employ women conductors, when the pool from which they could draw is so small. It is really about normalising the idea of women in that role. That’s the starting point.

        • @Alice: That makes a lot of sense. I’m currently working with one of your fellow students from your Russian years and very good she is, too. She’s more conscious of the fact she’s a woman conductor than I am, though. For me, there’s only one criterion: Can you do the job? Nothing else counts.

    • Most of the world’s major orchestras go their entire seasons without including a single woman conductor. There are no women among the world’s most elite Maestros. Marin Alsop and Simone Young are well-known, but still pretty far from inclusion in that group. This is a problem worthy of consideration and advocacy.

      In a field imbued with patriarchal concepts and imagery, women conductors face a host of problems particular to their gender. Workshops that address these specific problems seem worthwhile.

      A sampling of major orchestras in several countries made in 2009 found that women represent 30.01% of the personnel so there is still quite a bit of work to be done before genuine parity is reached, even if progress is going well in most orchestras. For the stats see:

      http://www.osborne-conant.org/orch2009.htm

      Top groups like the Berlin, Vienna, and Czech Philharmonic’s and the Bayreuther Festspiel Orchestra are still resistant to women and have very low ratios.

      The numbers for women as section leaders are much smaller in almost all orchestras, a serious problem that still needs work. And among trumpeters and trombonists, women have still not even broken the 5% barrier.

      Before concluding that women are well represented in top management positions in the classical music world, we need to see some hard numbers.

      It’s not quite time to say the job is done.

      • There has never been a woman professor of trumpet in the history of Germany. My wife is the first and only woman professor of trombone.

        • I guess “progressive” Austria is ahead of Germany in that regard with Carole Dawn Reinhart having been a professor of trumpet in Vienna.

          • Interestingly, Carol Dawn was mentored by her teacher, Helmut Wobisch, who helped her obtain the job at the Wiener Musikhochschule (today known as the University of Music.) Even though Wobisch was the Business Manager and later Chairman of the Philharmonic, her appointment was resented by many of his colleagues. Carol Dawn told me that the Philharmonic thus boycotted her students for the 30 or so years she taught at the Hochschule. In fact, none of her students were ever hired by the orchestra even though she was an excellent teacher and one of the world’s best trumpeters.

            This also illustrates the extreme ironies that have existed in Germany and Austria since the war. The only instance of a woman being given a trumpet professorship in the history of Germany and Austria was effected in part by an unrepentant Nazi who in 1966 reissued the Philharmonic’s Ring of Honor to the mass murder Baldur von Schirach. As the Gauleiter of Vienna Schirach deported 60,000 Jews to death camps.

            These appalling facts illustrate why so many people don’t want to talk about certain aspects of history – too many embarrassing correlations they’d rather people forget. And very often, people in the German-speaking world who mention facts like these face strong resentment and ostracism.

            The correlations continue to ripple through history. Already in 1942, American Vice President Henry Wallace gave a speech entitled “The Century of the Common Man.” He outlined the idea that in spite of Germany’s extreme crimes, the mistakes of Versailles should not be repeated, and that Germany must be given a “just and charitable peace.” Wallace’s vision was followed by the Western allies and helped lead to the peace and unity Western Europe has had since the war, and which now extends to Eastern Europe as well.

            Wallace’s speech advocating a “just and charitable peace” is among the most important speeches in American political history, even if parts of it sound dated by today’s perspectives. The speech was the inspiration for Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

            A charitable peace meant that many unrepentant Nazis like Wobisch were able to reassume positions of power, but in this case at least Austria ironically got a woman professor of trumpet out of it.

            In 2005 the Musikhochschule Trossingen held auditions for a trumpet professorship. A highly qualified woman applied. A colleague on the brass faculty resented her application and wrote a letter to the entire faculty Senate stating that she should not be considered because she was merely “a token woman and a fig leaf for the equal treatment laws.” In reality, she is solo trumpet in one of Germany’s major opera houses.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            william osborne says:
            February 23, 2014 at 9:34 am

            “These appalling facts illustrate why so many people don’t want to talk about certain aspects of history – too many embarrassing correlations they’d rather people forget. And very often, people in the German-speaking world who mention facts like these face strong resentment and ostracism.”

            That’s total nonsense, and you know it is. There is a lot of education about and very open discussion of the darkest chapters in the past going on in Germany all the time – way more than in most, if not all other countries which are far more reluctant to face the ghosts of their pasts, and you have confirmed that yourself on several occasions in this forum. Yet once again you choose to misinform people who are not familiar with what is going on in the “German-speaking world”, just to make yourself appear as some kind of courageous activist who boldly faces “resentment and ostracism” in order to speak the truth.
            In reality, it is quite the opposite. People who talk about the Nazi past are almost guaranteed attention because people take that subject very seriously. And people like you just abuse that to draw attention to themselves. You should be ashamed of yourself for trivializing such important subjects just for your own little agenda.

            “A charitable peace meant that many unrepentant Nazis like Wobisch were able to reassume positions of power, but in this case at least Austria ironically got a woman professor of trumpet out of it.”

            Yes, that is how world history played out – Austria got off lightly after WWII, and in direct response to that, and American woman got appointed professor for trumpet in Vienna decades later. Are you completely delusional, man?

          • Readers should remember that “Michael Schaffer” is most an ethnocentric German with a chip on his shoulder who repeatedly attacks criticism of Germany on Slipped Disk. His name is very likely fake – unless he is such a nobody that there is no information on the web about him. The harassment people in Germany can face for delving into the country’s Nazi past is well-known and well documented. In fact, “Michael Schaffer’s post here is an example.

            A widely known example is Anna Rosmus, who researched the Nazi past of her hometown of Passau Germany as part of the work toward her university degree. In August 1994, after constant harassment and death threats from those in her own community, Rosmus and her daughters moved to the United States. They settled in the Washington D.C. area. Her experiences were so extreme a film was even made based on her life. You can read about Anna Rosmus here:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Rosmus

            Forgive me if I do not respond to any further responses from Michael Schaffer. He invariable takes the dialog to a low niveau I find distasteful.

          • Readers should remember that “Michael Schaffer” is most an ethnocentric German with a chip on his shoulder who repeatedly attacks criticism of Germany on Slipped Disk. His name is very likely fake – unless he is such a nobody that there is no information on the web about him. The harassment people in Germany can face for delving into the country’s Nazi past is well-known and well documented. In fact, “Michael Schaffer’s post here is an example.

            A widely known example is Anna Rosmus, who researched the Nazi past of her hometown of Passau Germany as part of the work toward her university degree. In August 1994, after constant harassment and death threats from those in her own community, Rosmus and her daughters moved to the United States. They settled in the Washington D.C. area. Her experiences were so extreme a film was even made based on her life. You can read about Anna Rosmus here:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Rosmus

            Forgive me if I do not respond to any responses from Michael Schaffer. He invariable takes the dialog to a low niveau I find distasteful.

          • Ironically, another example of the reluctance to discuss the Nazi years is that the VPO revealed only last year that they had reissued their Ring of Honor to Baldur von Schirach, and only under pressure from a Green Party politician. The resentment and secrecy surrounding the revelation was widely reported in the international press and closely followed in this very forum.

        • Tubastyles says:

          Anna Freeman is Professor of Trumpet somewhere in Germany

          • Anna teaches trumpet at an external branch of the Cologne Hochschule in Aachen. In the main branch in Cologne, she teaches trumpet pedagogy for music ed majors.

          • Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that when Anna was hired in Aachen in 1999, she was a man. After she became a woman, her job was protected since EU law protects transgender people from discrimination. She is a very courageous person.

      • So women should show more interest for these professions and apply in bigger numbers in the music schools. Complaining about low representation in a professional field and implying it is due to discrimination is dishonest. Women are not interested in brass instruments too much. It will change, but it is up to the women themselves to show more interest and dedication.Those who already show it, are successful in their field. We live in the 21st century.

        • William Safford says:

          What evidence do you have that women “are not interested in brass instruments too much?”

          • How about reality? Look at the number of applicants for music major studies in said instruments for instance. It’s changing, but there is no discrimination at that level, mostly lack of interest of women. There are other subjects where men are less interested than women.
            Should we really regulate all that into forced equality? And why?

          • William Safford says:

            @Wanderer: When I was in elementary school, I wanted to play the flute. The school teachers would not let me play the flute, because I am a boy. (They probably did not want me to be bullied for playing a “girl’s” instrument.)

            Perhaps the fact that I did not apply for any collegiate music programs on flute would be attributed to a lack of interest in the flute?

            In my entire school district (admittedly a small one), from when I was in elementary school until I graduated from high school, there was one boy who played flute, three years younger than me.

            Your reasoning is circular. Can you show any statistics to back up your point? Or do you merely assert that there is not much interest because not many women apply, and not many women apply because there isn’t much interest?

            Parisi’s and Osborne’s discussion highlight one approach: prepare the groundwork for future gains, in both opportunity and interest.

  3. It woukd be useful to see an actual transcript of Jude Kelly’s speech at the South Bank. Everyone present insisted that she was talking only about the shortage of women conductors – something with which even the most hidebound male chauvinist in the business could not legitimately disagree.

    Yet it was reported in most credible news sources (including the BBC, Telegraph, Evening Standard and Guardian) as referring to the top of whole classical music industry: managers, soloists, orchestral players, the lot – something with which many people can (and did) take issue.

    The SBC is usually pretty shrewd aboiut getting precisely the message it wants into the media, yet as far as I’ve heard, Ms Kelly hasn’t since issued a clarification or rebuttal of what was – apparently – very widespread misreporting. Curiouser and curiouser.

  4. Really I do not understand why there should be a class for women only. I have in my conducting class in Milan Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi 10 students, 3 of them are women. Where is the problem?

    • When the ratio in your class is 7 women and 3 men, and when about 95% of the world’s active, professional conductors are women, ask that question again.

      • Vittorio Parisi says:

        Wait 10 years and you’ll see…

        • Interesting to hear from Maestro Parisi. The VPO agreed to admit woman in 1997 but did not hire one in a position outside of harp for the next ten years. The Berlin Phil began admitting women in 1983. Since then almost all of the personnel has been replaced, but women still represent only about 14% of the orchestra, the 3rd lowest ratio in the world. Women conductors have been around for decades, but they are still non-existent in the top echelon of the music world.

          With records like this, why should we believe you that a reasonable parity will be achieved in 10 years?

          Italy has produced an inordinate number of the world’s best conductors, but none of the few women conductors at the top of the field. Can you explain that, especially since you see no problems?

          Why do the top women conductors and brass players tend to come from the English-speaking world and Scandinavia and less so from highly musical countries like Italy, Germany, Austria, and France? Answers might help us understand why you see no problems.

        • Another thought for Maestro Parisi. The Orchestra of Santa Cecilia, in effect Italy’s national orchestra, is fabulous and much overlooked in the classical music world. It has 106 positions of which 28 are women. That’s 26.41% of the personnel, which is just a little below international norms, though nowhere near parity.

          A closer look reveals other more serious problems. The orchestra lists 25 solo positions, but only one is a woman — a harpist. So women represent only 4% of the solo positions. Zero percent of the strings, winds, and percussion!

          There are 37 positions in the winds and percussion but only 3 are women. That’s only 8.1%.

          Still seeing no problems? I simply adore Italy and the Italians, but these are tough questions that we need to answer.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            There is no “we” here. You aren’t part of the question nor the answer. You are just a failed composer who abuses this and other important subjects to draw attention to himself.

          • The Mr Osborne’s remark on Italy is a little bit out time considering that our new government, formed last Friday, is made by 8 women and 8 men..Besides this there are other orchestras in Italy that have more women behind their desks but you have to consider also the fact that almost all competition for orchestra positions are blocked in Italy by 10-20 years so we are talking about the past. Anyway the discussion started on women conductors and I want to stay in this field. The difference is Mr Osborne is contemplating the past without foreseeing the future while I’m working with the new generation of conductors. When I was a student there were not young women studyng conducting in the class, they did not apply at all. The percentage of women conductors in masterclass such as Chigiana Academy or Hilvershum Nos where I have studied was probably around 1 or 2% and it’s not easy from this percentage to find a good student. As a matter of fact I can remember only one of them and her admission exam was horrible. This is the past. The present foerseeing the future is different. There are more women conductors and their level is going higher. By the way my conducting class is rehearsing with the second symphonic orchestra of Milano, the Verdi Symphony Orchestra, and the musical director is a women, the Chinese Zhang Xian, beloved by some and not by others like it happens to men conductors worldwide. We have 2 conducting classes in Milano Conservatorio and in the last admission process we have chosen 9 new students, 4 or them are women. Selection has been made, of course, just on merits so we could have all only women admitted or only men admitted. There is a great difference with the past because women application were many more. Even lessons with orchestras are really different, players now do not do any difference between them. This is because I’m positive on the future. I told you, wait and you’ll see, of course not tomorrow but in 10 years.

          • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Parisi. It is important to understand that gender discrimination is often specific to certain fields. Classical music has historically had a special problem with this while other fields have few problems. The excellent progress toward increasing the number of women in politics in countries like Italy, Germany, and Austria does not negate the problems with sexism in classical music. We should not use the progess of women in other fields to rationalize the conditions in classical music.

            There are quite of few younger musicians in Santa Cecilia. Auditions there have not been blocked. In fact, they hired a new trombonist just a few weeks ago. Santa Cecilia is a good measure of the current status of women in the top levels of Italy’s music world.

            You are quite correct that there are more women students in conducting classes. In fact, women have comprised the majority of students overall in most conservatories around the world for at least the last 20 years. This has not, however, found a direct correspondence in hiring practices. There is a categorical change in attitudes between those found in schools and at the professional level. Students are overwhelmingly young people with modern ideals, while the average age in orchestras is much higher. Universities are generally progressive, while orchestras are generally conservative. These factors create strong differences in the views of women between the student and professional levels.

            It will very likely be much longer than 10 years before the increased number of women in conducting classes translates to changes on the professional level, and especially in the top echelons. This is why continuing advocacy, such as the work Ms. Kelly is doing, is important. To say advocacy is no longer necessary because of an increased number of women in conducting classes is absurd. That is only one factor of a very complex problem. Since you are an influential teacher, I hope this is something you will come to understand.

            Anyway, my compliments for the positive gender ratios in your class. Developments like these show that progress is being made.

          • Vittorio Parisi says:

            Sorry Mr Osborne, but I find a little bit funny that you in some way pretend to know my country better than me. It’s evident you ignore that Santa Cecilia works under a different kind of legislation than the great majority of Italian other orchestras, plus I have written that competition for orchestra position are ALMOST blocked, not TOTALLY., by years. Besides this, governments have a strong influence on the way of thinking of people, so there is no reason to divide things.
            It’s evident that women conductors are not hired so often to conduct, but the situation is changing and when I invite to look at the future it’s also because the current generation of old Artistic Director will be soon buried and replaced by younger people and I think 10 years is not a short period of time because the fruit is ripe.
            Sorry but I still think a conductors masterclass for women is a mistake. I do not discuss good faith but this is a help for gender division.
            I will not write another word on this subject, I think readers know what I Think now

          • Mr. Parisi, I hope you are right, but when I look at top orchestras like Santa Cecilia, and see that there is not even a single woman section leader outside of the harpist (who is also the only person in her section) I have trouble finding the basis for believing that women conductors will be as well represented as men leading top orchestras in only 10 years. Can’t even lead a section, but somehow they will soon be accepted in front of the entire orchestra! I prefer to combine hope with clear analysis and effective advocacy such as Ms. Kelly’s.

  5. Jude Kelly has an agenda. She even thought it necessary, in her message of ‘welcome’ to the Vienna Philharmonic when they played at SBC last year, to comment upon their lack of women in the orchestra. No one doubts the facts, but putting that in your welcome message is hardly stylish (and I would say simply not the way things are done when you have a major international name playing in your concert hall). It also sticks out like a sore thumb in what purports to be a musical comment: ‘Late in admitting women to its ranks, it’s fascinating to see the orchestra turn its attention to the modern world and the modern repertoire.’

  6. There were a number of female conducting students when I went to the New England Conservatory in the 70′s, at European workshops, at competitions, and from Dalia Atlas to Joanne Faletta, Eve Queler, and more,(pardon any misspellings), there have been a considerable number of active, successful female conductors all along. I never saw nor heard of any conducting professor ever exclude females.
    What a strange idea, to fabricate problems that simply do not exist, unless it is simply a way to attract attention to oneself.
    I am the first to appreciate female musicians, but it would never occur to me to create division, conflict or a conducting course exclusively for males, for example. Today’s victim mentality escapes me completely and there are far more pressing problems facing the world, today.

    • William Safford says:

      Until recent decades, many classical music courses were de facto (or even de jure) exclusively for males.

      I can count on the fingers of my hands the number of female conductors (aside from conducting students) who have conducted orchestras in which I have played over the last 30+ years. (As it happens, the first one was a young JoAnn Falletta.)

    • Just because you purport not to see a problem, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Your wide-eyed tone of incredulity – it would never occur to you! – rings false. Perhaps dedicate yourself to the far more pressing problems and leave questions of parity in a particular field to others.

  7. There were a few female conducting students in my class at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire (93-95)…..Ilya Musin, our wonderful teacher expected the same dedication and musicality from all his students, regardless of their gender.

  8. Young women are rarely considering conducting and the numbers clearly show that,. We feel it is time th is changed. When I graduated twenty years ago and was thinking about becoming a conductor, I never imagined that in 2014 there would still be so few of us. We are starting this programme to encourage talented young female musicians to consider it. It is no good demanding that orchestras and opera companies employ women conductors, when the pool from which they could draw is so small. It is really about normalising the idea of women in that role. That’s the starting point.

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