More women conduct the LA Phil than all big US orchs combined

More women conduct the LA Phil than all big US orchs combined


norman lebrecht

October 02, 2017

The claim from LA:

‘More women will conduct the LA Philharmonic this season than the symphonies of Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Nashville, Oregon, the The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic combined.’

It’s factually correct and a credit to Deborah Borda’s progressive management. Will she achieve the same at the NY Philharmonic?



  • Anon says:

    I don’t think it is progressive, but it certainly is fashionable and what good sales people do. It’s neither good or bad for music per se. It’s just irrelevant.

  • herrera says:

    LOL, in fact, the title of the piece is called “Four Female Conductors Take the Stage at the LA Phil”

    Everything is relative!

    I grant you 4 is a fine accomplishment considering how conservative things are, but if one really wants to push the matter, are there only 4 women conductors in the world worthy of LA?

    Finally, the list of orchestras that LA is compared to —

    Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Nashville, Oregon, Philadelphia, and New York

    — is totally up there with “fake news” in that it selectively leaves out orchestras that are engaging women conductors because that would totally undermine the blogger’s point.

    By the way, Chicago engaged Susanna Malki way before LA, so being the first probably matters more than being numerous.

    • timbits says:

      I agree on one level but the whole point is to say the LA Phil has more women coming than all these orchestras combined. In other words, all these orchestras combined have only three women on their podiums this season. It’s not meant to be a direct comparison where LA has four but the SF Symphony has three, etc. It’s just another way of saying, look how many orchestras STILL have few to no women conducting them.

  • Anon says:

    The place to promote women in the conducting profession is first of all with women themselves, to make the decision to learn that profession. Because if they actually do, theses days their chances are better than those of their male counterparts, due to reverse discrimination.

    • Brian says:

      “Reverse discrimination” is a phrase that white men trot out when they feel their dominance is under attack.

      Orchestras like LA would tell you that it’s a matter of compensating for biases in the system that have long prevented women from rising to higher levels.

      Orchestras like the others mentioned (Cincinnati, Philly, etc.) don’t see this level of extreme male dominance as a problem, and their patrons and boards probably don’t hold them to account on the issue.

      • Anon says:

        You are talking nonsense. I don’t feel my dominance is under attack. I see a lot of conservatories where barely women show up for entrance exams for conducting studies.
        It’s the classical fallacy, simple people see a correlation and think that is causation.
        There is no extreme male dominance. Women are freer than ever to enter the field, and they even enjoy benefits of manifold women-exclusive support programs. Still many are not interested. A similar correlation/causation confusion can be observed in the STEM subjects at universities. Despite huge women support efforts for decades now, to raise the percentage of women in those subjects, only barely is the percentage of women applying rising. It’s not due to male dominance. It’s mostly because they are not interested.

  • Simone says:

    Is it the LA Philharmonic who shone the spotlight on the amount of women conductors they invited? Or is it Brian Lauritzen, the journalist who wrote the article?
    I’ve not looked into it, but it looks like Deborah Borda made the invitations without bragging about her choices, and then some journalist decided to come out with the gender thing.

    I would like orchestras to simply invite conductors of any gender, for gender has to stop to be of any relevance. And both the orchestras and the media should stop making a big deal about it. They only slow down the normalization of seeing a woman on the podium.

    • Bruce says:

      It does seem like, when orchestras engage female conductors, they don’t make a big deal out of it: they just put them in the next season’s brochure with the standard glossy photos and P.R. bios; then someone else notices and makes a big deal about it.

      Should a big deal be made about it? I can think of reasons why and why not.

      Against: trumpeting every female conductor gig to the skies makes it look — depending on your point of view — like (a) normalcy has been achieved and everything is equal now, (b) female conductors are taking over the world and crowding out more talented male ones, or (c) female conductors are still a rare, freakish phenomenon. None of these are actually true.

      In favor: if no one calls attention to it, no one will know about it, and people will continue to think that female conductors are rare to nonexistent. I’m a professional musician, but I don’t peruse the brochures of other orchestras. I’d never have known about this if not for this blog, and I daresay most of us on here wouldn’t have, either.

      Eventually, it will stop being a thing. Remember how gay marriages used to make the front page of every local newspaper? Now they’re common enough that they’ve faded into ordinariness are are now listed among all the other nuptials (including the interracial ones). Ditto for black opera singers, etc. etc.

      In my other career, it’s not unusual to run into patients — usually older, but not always — who struggle to grasp the concept that doctors can be female and nurses are often male. It’s easy to scoff and say it’s not 1962 any more, but hey — if you are fortunate enough to have little to no contact with the medical profession, then how are you going to be aware of changes? Perhaps by reading about them in a newspaper?

      • Bruce says:

        P.S. Simone, I’m not trying to argue with you — my post is a “response” to yours because you got me thinking.

  • Ben says:

    1) Does it have anything to do with the artistic quality of LA Phil?

    2) Another female executive trying to be “Hillary Clinton” by cherry picking mathematics to fool others, just to earn appeal from women and equal rights groups.

    Anybody with common sense should know it’s politician campaign-style fact-distortion cherry-picking math, when Indianapolis, Nashville and Oregon are counted together with the likes of Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, yet Cleveland and Boston are left out.


    Here’s some simple math: New Jersey Symphony Orchestra or Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, both a few cuts more respectable than Nashville’s or Oregon’s, will have more female-conducted concerts than LA Philharmonic this season.


    • pete says:

      Well, adding Cleveland to the list doesn’t change the total much. This season, the only female conductor is Mitsuko Uchida conducting two Mozart concertos from the keyboard (the other piece on the program (selections from Handel’s Water Music) is led by the concertmaster (Preucil). As far as I can recall, the only female conductors in CLE in the last five years have been Malkki and Alsop.

    • pete says:

      I posted earlier (the moderator hasn’t uploaded it yet) that the omission of Cleveland made little difference in the tally, since the only female conductor this season is Uchida conducting two Mozart concerti from the keyboard, with the remainder of the program led by the (male) concertmaster. In the last five years, I can recall only Also and Malkki as other female conductors in CLE.

      Since you mentioned Boston, their subscription brochure shows ZERO female conductors this season.

      Now you can complain (if you must) that that this LAPO publicity omitted Baltimore, where the music director is Alsop. They also omitted Buffalo (Jo Ann Falletta). But it’s clear that the number of female conductors leading US orchestras in subscription concerts is small compared to the number of male conductors. It’s not for lack of talent.

  • Axline7 says:

    Political correctness, if unchecked, will eventually denude all the arts of their most important qualities, through a process of deception that fools well meaning people. What is next…probably a starry eyed attempt at equal representation of women composers in the repertoire. That will happen as people take their eyes off musical greatness and put PC first. The more practiced people become at putting quality second, the less quality there will be, and so on…until, in all the fine arts, what was once Rembrandt will be nothing but lines in a square frame – Mondrian.

  • Nothing but an opportunistic & populistic gesture.

  • John McLaughlin Williams says:

    How many black conductors?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      More to the point: how many black orchestra managers?

    • Kevin Scott says:

      Not enough, I’m afraid. Where are the black male conductors who have made inroads into the mainline orchestras, such as Kazem Abdullah, Kevin John Edusei, Brandon Keith Brown, William Eddins, Kirk Smith and Leslie Dunner, not to mention yourself and (shameless promoter here) myself! But most important are the black women conductors such as Jeri Lynne Johnson, Kay George Roberts and Tania Leon. Unfortunately, the few women of color who are leaders of the podium have very few chances to conduct the first-tier American orchestras, and Tania, if I recall, made an appearance with the LAPO, but as a composer. Very sad indeed,

  • Sue says:

    I don’t care whether male or female as long as there’s bucket loads of talent!!

    • Greg Tiwidichitch says:

      As long as we’re talking about a level of discrimination, how about “older” conductors, not in major level orchestras, but in regional and below? Most of the music directors being chosen are 20-30 somethings fresh off of an assistantship in a major orchestra or some prize-winner in a European competition. NO offers to conductors over age 40! Since we talk about black conductors, how about “yellow” conductors? How many Japanese or Chinese conductors are being offered conductorships or guest gigs? Sure, in each category there are “some” but probably “not enough”.

      • Kevin Scott says:

        Greg, you have hit this one on the head! There are many of us old “gray dogs” who are clamoring for an MD position with an orchestra, be it regional, metropolitan, collegiate or community, and now that I have hit the big 6-0, it has not been easy! Ageism is alive and well, but they won’t say that in the open.

        As for your comment about Asian conductors, this is surprising indeed, though you do have a few who are holding some prominent positions, such as Mei-Ann Chen (Chicago Sinfonietta) and Xian Zhang (New Jersey Symphony). But I’m also not surprised that orchestras won’t court other Asian conductors that are worthy of being MDs or guest conductors.

        • Greg Tiwidichitch says:

          I have often noticed several conductors who are in that 50-60 range who have not gotten the big break and “on paper” won’t make it past the first initial vetting for directorships or guest gigs. Yet many of them are as good or in many cases, better than their lucky counterparts who have the positions. Of course we see this in practically every vocation, where the attraction of the young, the prodigy, the up-and-comer takes precedence over an older, seasoned, experienced, and valuable person. After all, this isn’t like a sport where physical ability is all that matters. Conducting is a mental discipline which is why there are no real conducting prodigies…when they appear, they are more dog-and-pony shows. It’s the same with fund managers, software engineers, or hair dressers. Experience MATTERS. Having previously invented several “wheels” MATTERS. The patience, discretion, and wisdom that comes with age MATTERS. I don’t understand why this escapes those who make these kinds of decisions, whether it be conducting or any other field.

  • John says:

    Critic’s Notebook The ‘L.A. Phil Effect’ hits New York, Cleveland and beyond

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    The ONLY thing that matters is how well they conduct. I have yet to experience a compelling performance with a woman conducting.

    • William Safford says:

      Note how your second sentence reveals your bias, and thereby negates your first sentence.

      • Anon says:

        Read it again. In fact the second sentence reveals no bias at all. It describes an observation of past experiences. It would reveal a bias, if he said something like ‘I doubt I will ever experience a compelling performance with a woman conducting’ but he never said that.

        • William Safford says:

          I just re-read it.

          Nothing has changed. His bias continues to be revealed to all who read it — unless, of course, he eschews attending concerts conducted by women conductors. In that case, that’s actuated bias.

          • M2N2K says:

            If you see “bias” in that sentence, you are a biased reader because there is no bias there at all. If a person has attended many orchestral concerts some of which were conducted by women and believes that only a few of those, all conducted by men, were in his opinion “compelling”, then he/she is expressing his/her subjective opinion – no more no less. He/she may be biased or not – the statement itself does not prove it either way. Your statement that there is bias in that sentence would have made sense only if all orchestral concerts conducted by women were by definition compelling. We know that this is not the case and is just as silly as saying that all orchestral concerts conducted by men are compelling. Your accusation of bias is therefore absurd.