Six picked for first women conductors course

Six picked for first women conductors course


norman lebrecht

June 05, 2015

Out of 103 applicants, the Dallas Opera has selected the following candidates for its inaugural Institute for Women Conductors:


    • Jennifer Condon (Australia/Germany)
    • Jessica Gethin (Australia)
    • Natalie Murray Beale (UK)
    • Stephanie Rhodes (USA)
    • Anna Skryleva (Russia/Germany, pictured)
    • Lidiya Yankovskaya (USA)     

anna skryleva

The IWC will consist of master classes and one-on-ones with Dallas Opera Music Director Emmanuel Villaume and Principal Guest Conductor Nicole Paiement.


  • Al G says:

    Absolutely disgusting. An Institute just for women? What if Perlman decided to have a violin course just for men? I’m sure many people, especially women, would be outraged. I hope this institute fails to continue and loses support. High level music training should be for the highly gifted and trained, regardless of gender.

    • S. Reed says:

      AL G, this is the double standard.
      Double standard, meet AL G.

    • V.Lind says:

      Agreed. But NL will be delighted — he is a frequent number-cruncher of women conductors (and instrumentalists).

      Still, I doubt six will satisfy his apparent desire for proportional representation on the podium!

    • William Safford says:

      Perhaps when there is parity, it will become disgusting. For now…

      • Peter says:

        I was afraid there would be people who “think” that way.
        Parity in what sense? When women are – if you want to deal with facts and not with ideologies – about 5 to 10 times less likely to be interested to follow the carreer path of a conductor than men (just look at the application numbers in colleges), then how can you possibly achieve parity without discriminating a lot of men?
        All a free (!) society can do, is granting equal opportunity. To imply that women have to have exactly the same interests than men and be represented in parity to men is just absurd. Just as absurd as it is the other way around.

        • William Safford says:

          You presume that equal opportunity exists.

          The facts speak otherwise.

          Those who argue against affirmative action programs claim to want to eliminate discrimination of all kinds, and thereby create a level playing field.

          A subset of you (in the plural) may even be sincere.

          The problem is that that putative level playing field does not exist. It is an artificial construct by people who are already privileged.

          By opposing programs that expand opportunities for those who are discriminated against, they perpetuate the entrenched discriminatory status quo, intentionally or unintentionally.

          That presumption of equality is the ultimate fatal flaw in their position, and is a major reason why programs such as this one, and the minority orchestra mentioned at:


          There is one more possibility: perhaps I am wrong, and instead you may believe that equal opportunity is unimportant. If so, well, that opens an even bigger can of worms.

          • Peter says:

            I didn’t presume anything. I said what’s necessary is equal opportunity, not more, not less.
            The reality is, that today we have a lot of equal opportunity, we also have some old pockets of gender discrimination against women AND we have an increasing reverse discrimination against men, because some ideologist do not understand the difference between equal opportunity and forced equality.

          • GONZALEZ says:

            Speaking in general terms and assuming that those terms will apply equally to the generality is usually not the most accurate way of reflecting on any given subject.
            According to Americans I belong to a minority group (anyway they love tagging and labeling everything and everybody!). However, I have never felt myself to be such neither have I taken advantage of the “opportunities” that the Anglo-Saxon majority feel obligated to provide them with (scholarships, financial aid, jobs, etc.). In fact, for every single document that I filled out where I suspected that that criteria was going to be used affecting results I left the space blank and hoped to be evaluated solely on my skills. The paradox is that by accepting that kind of distinction (or favoritism?) we would only be denying a true equal opportunity for us all.

          • William Safford says:

            Gonzalez, I’m glad that that works for you.

            There are many forms of affirmative action, just as there are many forms of discrimination.

            A high school classmate of mine was about 50th percentile, yet was accepted to one of the most exclusive colleges in the U.S. What got him in? Football.

            Other classmates of mine got into equally prestigious colleges, with class ranks that might otherwise have disqualified them. What got them in? They are legacies–their parents, grandparents, etc. also went to those colleges. (Not a classmate of mine, but that applies to President Bush.)

            Other people, what got them in? Their parents paid for a new building on campus.

            Yet people get so up in arms with affirmative action for minorities and women.

            Certain people try to diminish their accomplishments, yet do not seem inclined to tar legacies or such for their own affirmative action admissions.

            So, if you look to the left or right of you, you may see people who got into their colleges through affirmative action of one form or another.

            Is this a double standard? Absolutely.

            And it is fully reflective of the sorts of discrimination, and the mindsets of the people who perpetuate such discrimination, that have kept women out of orchestra jobs.

          • M2N2K says:

            The football example is irrelevant: those colleges simply decide to reward people for their sporting accomplishments as much as (or sometimes more than) for their academic ones. We may disagree with such practices, but they are neither “affirmative” nor “discriminatory”. The other two kinds of privileges are certainly questionable and may be wrong in many cases. However, even if they are in fact wrong, adding another wrong to a couple of existing wrongs does not make this additional wrong any less wrong.

          • William Safford says:

            M2N2, the football analogy is fully relevant if one wants to argue that the sole criterion for acceptance into a college or university should be academic achievement potential, as is suggested by many who decry the validity of affirmative action. After all, accepting athletes ahead of other students discriminates against people without that athletic ability and affirms those who are athletic, and may serve to promote someone with inferior or undocumented secondary-level academic achievement.

            Unless the university degree program has something to do with physical education, this athletic ability is typically irrelevant and extrinsic to the academics. In many cases the athletics interfere with the academics…but I digress.

            If other factors are permitted to enter the equation such as athletic ability, then that undermines the argument against affirmative action. After all, affirmative action encompasses examples of nonacademic criteria for acceptance to a college or university. (Perhaps I am wrong about this — perhaps affirmative action can be argued to be an academic criterion — but again I digress.)

            (In the case I cited previously, it was not a Division 1 football program — Division 3, I think.)

            My point about legacies, athletics, and other less acknowledged forms of affirmative action is that their validity is not typically challenged by those who focus on affirmative action for groups found unpalatable by the offended challenger, e.g. minorities and women. In many cases, this is because it is not the fact of affirmative action that is offensive to them, but the people who are the beneficiaries of the affirmative action.

            Much has improved in recent decades. Improvement, however, is not the same as equality of opportunity or parity.

            We see patterns of discrimination recapitulate themselves again and again. In the news in the U.S. has been the infamous pool party raided by the police in Texas. What is the basis for it? Well, when municipal pools were desegregated in Texas in the ’50s and ’60s, most of them were converted into private pools, in order to perpetuate the right of white people to discriminate against black people. The reason police were called in this case was that certain white people did not believe that the black children belonged in their private pool.

            For more information on this phenomenon:


            The reasons for affirmative action are many and diverse. One of them is to overcome intrenched interests opposed to equality of opportunity, and documented patterns of inequality, just one example being the one cited by Lynn.

          • M2N2K says:

            If you do not understand the difference between promoting people because of what they can do (result of talent+work combination, in sports and music alike) and rewarding them for what they are by accident of birth (no talent or work is required to be born with a particular set of sexual organs or a particular color of skin), then I can’t help you. There is much greater difference between these two principles than there is between rewarding sporting and musical excellence both of which “discriminate” against people without certain talents and abilities which of course is not a true discrimination at all.

          • William Safford says:

            M2N2K, with the following:

            “If you do not understand the difference between promoting people because of what they can do (result of talent+work combination, in sports and music alike) and rewarding them for what they are by accident of birth (no talent or work is required to be born with a particular set of sexual organs or a particular color of skin), then I can’t help you.”

            you have showed all the world your true colors.

          • M2N2K says:

            Not sure what “colors” you have in mind, but the main point I wanted to make by my previous comment is that I am categorically against discrimination based on who the person is by birth. Your response to that showed that you have run out of arguments.

          • William Safford says:

            M2N2K, after hundreds of years of institutionalized male and white supremacy in the U.S., we still see many remnants of this ugly legacy.

            This includes, in a small way, people who will write things about minorities and women such as:

            “…rewarding them for what they are by accident of birth (no talent or work is required to be born with a particular set of sexual organs or a particular color of skin).”

            White males were rewarded for hundreds of years just because of the accident of birth, with no talent or or work required to be born with a particular color or sexual organs. Yet it’s automatically bad to consider any program that might do the same for someone who is not white and male.

            Women, minorities, and others, at the same time of this white male privilege, were oppressed and worse.

            Even as things improve, there is still much work left to do.

            Isn’t it funny that affirmative action is a good thing when it is used to support white male privilege, but it becomes a bad thing when it is used to help rectify centuries of discrimination against women and minorities, especially when it is used as a counterweight against still-prevalent discriminatory forces and attitudes.

            Isn’t it funny that you hold a presumption that women and minorities offer “no talent or work” to be deserving of affirmative action programs.

            You showed your true colors.

            You are not alone in this, alas. Note Peter’s comment creating a false dichotomy between equal opportunity and forced equality, for example.

            There still remains much work to be done.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      I will take your comments more seriously when you can demonstrate what you have done to remedy the appalling treatment of female musicians and particularly conductors in a considerable number of the leading orchestras in the world. Women do not want special treatment, they just want equal consideration and treatment when being considered for jobs.

      • GONZALEZ says:

        …and the solution, of course, is to have more of these ladies-only courses spread all over. Yes, it sounds pretty logical to me.

        • Anon says:

          Yes, it sounds pretty logical to you – a privileged male, I’m assuming. And your experience as one makes your opinion on this matter VERY valuable.

          • Peter says:

            In what sense is a man privileged in today’s western democracies? Please name a few factual examples and show how they are representative of the society as a whole. Thank you.
            (very tired of this shit)

          • William Safford says:

            Peter, if you feel tired of all of this, imagine how women must feel. After all, they are on the receiving end of all of this, not you.

            Lynn’s posting documents just one example.

            If you actually want to learn more, starting points can include:




            A web search can yield more results, if you wish to become more informed about this topic.

  • Christy says:

    Well, since they’re told by many that they’re not allowed with the men, I say go for it…

    • Peter says:

      Like by whom for instance. How many?

      • ohglorioso says:

        Temirkanov, Vasilly Petrenko to name two.

        • Peter says:

          That’s the two I know too. Then there was a prof. in France.
          Anecdotal cases. Far from justification for this ideological war that is raging.

          If you want to promote women in that field, first you have to ask them why statistically they have so little interest in the profession, as is proven by the low application numbers in higher education relative to men.

          • Anon says:

            “first you have to ask them why statistically they have so little interest in the profession, as is proven by the low application numbers in higher education relative to men.”

            Oh, I’ve learned something new today! The REAL reason that there are fewer women in conducting is not because of social constructs from a young age that train women to follow rather than lead, or of sexism in admissions to educational programs, or discrimination in recruiting and hiring. Silly me. It’s because they’re simply not interested! We should definitely blame them for being treated like second class citizens, because, well, that’s probably what they’re more interested in anyway.

          • Peter says:

            Anon, that’s a lot of straw man you are beating there.

  • peter dempsey says:

    In Dallas there is a brilliant conductor making waves at the Symphony, a conductor of great musical gifts, enthusiasm and technique who has conducted a huge amount of repertoire this season, to great critical acclaim. Karina Canellakis is HER name and no one makes any effort to distinguish her by her sex. She will go far as a great conductor I am sure of that.

  • Brian Rosen says:

    Dear Norman,
    Check out Karina Canellakis at the DSO, she doesn’t need any gender separation..she is one of the great young conductors I have ever seen.

  • David says:

    To be honest I think positive discrimination stinks, although I guess it’s one of those things with good intentions behind it.

    But what actually matters now is that the individuals studying this course succeed in their careers.

    I fear in the future various bigoted critics, funders, collaborators etc. would use the existence of such a course to put down these individuals pointing out the ‘special privilege’ or whatever. Especially at such a point – when it is finally reached – that there is more gender equality in other mainstream courses.

    Decent artists deserve to be heard.

  • ohglorioso says:

    How many women are the music director/conductors of international opera houses???? Perhaps this is a direction towards remedying that.

    • Peter says:

      If you think 50% representation in every field and niche of our lives is the norm, sure. But that’s just absurd and opressive.

  • Lynn says:

    Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians
    Claudia Goldin, Cecilia Rouse
    Discrimination against women has been alleged in hiring practices for many occupations, but it is extremely difficult to demonstrate sex-biased hiring. A change in the way symphony orchestras recruit musicians provides an unusual way to test for sex-biased hiring. To overcome possible biases in hiring, most orchestras revised their audition policies in the 1970s and 1980s. A major change involved the use of blind’ auditions with a screen’ to conceal the identity of the candidate from the jury. Female musicians in the top five symphony orchestras in the United States were less than 5% of all players in 1970 but are 25% today. We ask whether women were more likely to be advanced and/or hired with the use of blind’ auditions. Using data from actual auditions in an individual fixed-effects framework, we find that the screen increases by 50% the probability a woman will be advanced out of certain preliminary rounds. The screen also enhances, by severalfold, the likelihood a female contestant will be the winner in the final round. Using data on orchestra personnel, the switch to blind’ auditions can explain between 30% and 55% of the increase in the proportion female among new hires and between 25% and 46% of the increase in the percentage female in the orchestras since 1970.