Canada names fifth woman music director

Canada names fifth woman music director


norman lebrecht

June 28, 2016

Mélanie Léonard, 38, was named music director today of the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra.

She was formerly artistic director of the Calgary New Music Festival and resident conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

She joins Tania Miller at the Victoria Symphony, Gemma New at the Hamilton Philharmonic, Anne Manson at Manitoba Chamber Orchestra  and Rosemary Thomson of Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, she will be Canada’s fifth serving music director who is female.

It may be that Canada is further down the road than any other country to gender quality in the podium.



  • Emil Archambault says:

    …and also that they are all second-rate orchestras. The problem is not so much women getting jobs (although that remains a struggle), but them getting jobs at the top level. This is a sign of progress, nevertheless.

    • Plush says:

      Your comment is suspect. That is because you don’t congratulate them for having and supporting these regional orchestras. These orchestras are not going out of business

      • Emil Archambault says:

        Of course, it is great that Canada has regional orchestras – I don’t think I’m denying that anywhere. It is also great that more and more women not only obtain MDships, and that there are more and more talented women conductors (I’m adding to the list Dina Gilbert, outgoing assistant MD in Montreal). However, we should be wary of assessing equality of opportunity on numbers alone. The fact that women lead 5 Canadian orchestras, but the Canadian Top 5-6 (OSM, OM, NAC, TSO, VSO, CSO) remains all male-conducted. So we have to be careful that the trees do not mask the forest.

        • Christopher Smith says:

          If by OM you mean Orchestre Metropolitain, its conductor and artistic director for about ten years was Agnes Grossman, who was definitely not a man.

          • Emil Archambault says:

            And back then it was very much second-league to the OSM. Not any more.

          • Emil Archambault says:

            By “second-league,” I refer again to size and international reputation, not to quality.

    • Robert Fraser says:

      I understand the point you are making – that women conductors are not getting jobs with orchestras in the larger marketplaces – but I wish you would have chosen a different term other than “second-rate” to describe the orchestra that I have been proud to call my workplace for the past 26 years. Orchestras like mine are in smaller marketplaces, and therefore have smaller budgets – but we serve our communities well. There is nothing “second-rate” about us in any way – not in the way we perform or in the way we delight audiences that, in our case, have been coming to hear us for 75 years. Robert Fraser – bass trombonist, Victoria Symphony

      • Emil Archambault says:

        Sorry, I did not mean to cause any offence. Indeed, I mean large-market, internationally renowned orchestras.

        • Dominique Bernath says:

          Thank you for the apology. I, too, was offended by your “second rate” comment as I’ve been the timpanist for the Okanagan Symphony for 20 years this coming season, and I can tell you there is nothing “second rate” about this ensemble, its product, its members and its mandate.

      • Milka says:

        Depends on who is listening and sophistication of audience.
        What goes well in Sudbury and Victoria may not go well elsewhere.

  • Erika Reiman says:

    I would like to mention an exciting initiative in Vancouver. Janna Sailor has founded the Allegra Chamber Orchestra, an all-female ensemble which recently performed its first concert.

  • V.Lind says:

    Justin Trudeau would say, “It’s 2016.”

  • Robert Fraser says:

    Don’t forget Susan Haig, who was music director of the Windsor Symphony in the 1990s, and Agnes Grossmann, who was music director of Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal from 1986-1995 (the orchestra currently led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin). I’m sure there have been others.

    • C. Baker says:

      and similar but different, Jeanne Lamon leading Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. and Robert is right – “second rate” is just a negligent choice of words.

  • Nina says:

    Also Jeanne Lamon of Tafelmusik and Veronique Lacroix at ensemble contemporain de Montreal!

  • Elizabeth Turnbull says:

    And Guelph Symphony Orchestra is led by superb Artistic Dirctor, conductor Judith Yan!