Only one woman gets through to ‘leading’ conducting contest (and she’s Irish)

Only one woman gets through to ‘leading’ conducting contest (and she’s Irish)


norman lebrecht

December 14, 2013

The finalists have been announced for the 11th Cadaqués Orchestra International Conducting Competition and the bad news is that only one female contestant got past the prejudice barrier in the preliminary round. She’s Sinéad Hayes of Ireland and she’s up against 12 males. We’re rooting for Sinéad.

The competition will be streamed live, starting tomorrow Sun. at 10 a.m. here.

sinead hayes


  • Mark Stratford says:

    ===only one female contestant got past the prejudice barrier.

    Maybe the others were just not that good ?

  • Ian Pace says:

    Are there any finalists who are not white?

  • J says:

    As a music student I have found that even very young (school and university level) conductors are overwhelmingly male. However, it appears to me not so much that female conductors are refused opportunities (at least from what I have observed), as the problem is far more basic than that: alarmingly few females opt to take up conducting themselves in the first place. The same is true of composition, to a lesser extent. I cannot possibly explain why this is, but I suspect that it is something to do with the cultural dogma that conducting is somehow a ‘man’s game’. Let’s hope at the very least that female conductors and composers get increasing publicity so that these activities are seen as something that women can and should do.

  • Vittorio Parisi says:

    I have 3 women in my conducting class in Milano and surely there is not a predujice barrier in my class. I have one guy in the 12 in Cadaques. Have you watched the whole selection to talk about prejudice barruer or is it just a percentage impression?

  • Hasbeen says:

    Assuming you have not seen any of the competition why would you ‘root’ for one over the others. Just because she is female ? Isn’t that ‘prejudicial’ or at least sexist ? Surely the only thing that matters is who, in the eyes and ears of the judges, is the best.

  • Mark says:

    There are still approximately 72 conductors in the competition, who will participate in the 1st round proper over the next 2 days. Maybe worth checking facts a but more carefully Norman?

    • That’s what the contest put on its website. That’s what the musicians sent to Slipped Disc.

      • Mark says:

        It’s pretty clear on the website that these were the results of the preliminary round.

        • Roger says:

          Nope. Sorry, Mark, it’s NOT clear. In fact it’s very misleading.

          The only way to see that there is a large group of candidates who were not required to do a preliminary audition who are competing in the 1st round is if you check the schedule which says how many candidates in each session. The names are not posted. A schedule with names is not posted.

          Competition administrators are evidently receiving complaints and have started posting names but only AFTER candidates have competed. Some one should advise them of standard competition protocol: you post the schedule with the names of the candidates BEFORE they compete, especially in the case of live streaming. How can we possibly follow the candidates without knowing when they will be competing?

          Transparency is very important in this competition. Candidates have spent big bucks to compete and many orchestras in Spain will be affected by the results. Being coy about not posting names in advance and not making the competition process crystal clear to those of us following is not a good start.

  • Luciano says:

    Actually, the information above is not really correct. Thirteen candidates were selected from the preliminary round, including Sinead, to go into the main competition which starts on Sunday. So these thirteen join the 45 or so who were selected on the basis of their biographies. They don’t seem to have a full list of contestants on their website, so hard to say how many women are invited. I hope it is more than 1 in 12. You can see the schedule for the competition here:

    • A big problem with this competition is that they select candidates based on bios and recommendations. Normal competitions want to see a video of your conducting so there is at least some criteria involved. Anyone can write a fancy bio and forge a couple of signatures. I doubt the competition has the will or the means to contact all (or any of) the “high profile” conductors that are mentioned in the bios and recommendations of the applicants.

  • Hongkonger says:

    And what on earth is the relevance of saying “and she’s Irish”?

  • Violetta says:

    Oh, no! I am the person who sent the information to Mr. Lebrecht and he simply wrote up what I sent. He did not make the mistake, I did!

    You have to admit that the website isn’t clear and they’ve only listed the names of those who passed thru from the preliminary round. They still haven’t posted names of those who’ve been invited directly.

    And I pointed out that she is Irish because I happen to think that’s interesting. I was also interested to see that another candidate who passed thru is Greek. These countries are both at the bottom of the EU economically and for a young conductor to emerge competitively from either country right now is noteworthy, in my opinion.

    Why not root for a particular candidate? It’s part of the excitement of the competition! Sinead Hayes has worked extensively in the UK & many Slipped Disc readers are familiar with her work. It makes sense that quite a few of us might be following her progress as she competes, and cheering her on!

    • Anon says:

      Violetta, I’m interested in your suggestion that Ireland’s economic position makes the emergence of an Irish conductor, now, something of note.

      Surely the fact that she will have been training (musically at least) for many years, means the economic slump in Ireland has nothing whatever to do with anything, here? Most of her training will have taken place in the boom years of “Tiger Ireland”.

  • Violetta says:

    Just checked the Cadaques site. They are streaming the competition but still haven’t posted a schedule with names or a list of those competing, so there’s no way to know ahead of time who is conducting. It’s very hard to follow like this.

    Perhaps someone would be willing to email the competition – – and have them fix this.

  • Carlos says:

    Um. This article is about 100% incorrect. 72 contestants are disputing the first round of the competition today and tomorrow. A few are women are in it, though certainly a considerable minority. You were misinformed this time, Mr. Lebrecht.

    • Violetta says:

      Carlos, I have already explained that I am the person responsible for the misinformation, not Mr. Lebrecht. I regret not reading the web site more carefully, but you must admit it’s not clear. All of the names should have been posted for the 1st round and they only posted the names of those who passed from the prelims.

      I think we can all agree now the Sinead Hayes is the only woman accepted from THE PRELIMINARY ROUND. Several people have already noted the correction and I stand to blame for the misunderstanding.

  • DK says:

    Danish (female) conductor Maria Badstue is also through to the first round (not having to do the pre-lim because of her resume):

  • David Grandis says:

    You are rooting for this candidate because she’s the only female in the competition?? This completely defeats your purpose to fight against prejudice. Why not rooting for the best regardless of gender or race or whatever, this is what a true competition is about.