A recent article in the Los Angeles Times addressed the gains that women conductors have made in a world (still) dominated by male leaders. Cloe Veitman, writing May 10, 2009, noted:

The appointment of a female music director in a country as conservative as Italy has generated considerable buzz and again focused attention on the progress women have made toward taking their place on the podiums of major orchestras — and the stubborn forces that prevent more of them from getting there.

Classical music institutions throughout the world are embracing the notion of female conductors more than ever. In addition to appearing regularly as guest conductors and in assistant conductor positions with top orchestras, women are now commonly in the running for — and occasionally winning — music directorships.

Recent appointments in North American orchestras include Joana Carneiro at the Berkeley Symphony, Laura Jackson at the Reno Philharmonic, Anne Manson at the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Teresa Cheung at the Altoona Symphony, Elizabeth Schulze at the Flagstaff Symphony and Antonia Joy Wilson at the Midland Symphony.

The nation’s most established female music directors are proving successful at their jobs. Over the course of JoAnn Falletta’s 11-year directorship of the Buffalo Philharmonic, the orchestra’s budget has grown from about $7.5 million to $10 million. The orchestra has won two Grammy Awards, made 14 recordings and boasts record subscription levels. Meanwhile, in 2008, the Baltimore Symphony announced its first balanced budget in five years, which observers attribute in part to enthusiasm surrounding the appointment of music director Marin Alsop in 2007.

It couldn’t have been more different only a few decades ago. “It is safe to say that until the past 15 or so years, there simply was no woman with an important international conducting career,” wrote Henry Fogel, the League of American Orchestras’ former president, on his blog in 2007. Despite inroads by such early pioneers as Antonia Brico (1902-89), Sarah Caldwell (1924-2006) and Judith Somogi (1941-88), women rarely appeared on the podiums of major orchestras in the first half of the 20th century.

Heather Risley’s article on Women in Dance leadership for Bourgeon in 2007 reported, “A recent study found that 86 percent of the country’s 43 ballet companies with budgets of $2 million or more are run by men. The 2002 study, by DanceUSA, is part of that organization’s long-standing project to document trends in the field. The data shows that those holding positions at the highest levels in the largest companies are mostly men.” You can see the entire article here.


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