The most powerful women in US music

The most powerful women in US music


norman lebrecht

October 11, 2018

We gave you a British power list a while back.

Here’s the Slipped Disc US powerlist. (Deutschland next?)

Top 20

1 Deborah Borda
NY Phil Prez

2 Betsy DeVos
Trump’s Education Secretary, former powerplayer at KenCen

3 Deborah Rutter
Kennedy Center chief

4 Missy Mazzoli
The go-to composer

5 Renee Fleming
Singer, consultant, tipped as next Met chief

6 Marin Alsop
Baltimore conductor

7 Marilyn Horne
Everybody’s favourite auntie/advisor

8 Jane Moss
Lincoln Center programmer

9 Deborah Spar
ex-Lincoln Center chief, exGoldman Sachs. She’ll be back

10 Karina Canellakis
The coming conductor

11 Francesca Zambello
Glimmerglass and Washington National Opera, one eye on the Met

12 Anne Parsons
Detroit Symph chief

13 Anne Midgette
WashPo critic, #MeToo traliblazer

14 Kim Noltemy
Dallas Symph boss

15 Elizabeth Sobol
Saratoga Performing Arts Center chief

16 Afa Sadykhly Dworkin
Sphinx org equality campaigner

17 Jessica Phillips
Musicians’ rep at the Met

18 Charlotte Lee
Exclusive boutique agent, looks after Itzhak and a few more

19 Joyce DiDonato
Ultima mezzo

20 Hilary Hahn
#1 soloist


  • Jon H says:

    also Jennifer Higdon, Julie Landsman, Libby Larsen

    • Brian says:

      Good points. Higdon’s music has a much bigger reach than Mazzolli’s. Nothing against the latter composer, but in terms of who orchestras are commissioning, it’s no contest. (Funny, btw, how the younger generation of composers is re-embracing more dissonant styles of music after their forebears cleared the way for tonality and Romanticism to flourish again.)

  • Caravaggio says:

    Don’t quite understand why DiDonato, Hahn and Fleming should be on this list but what do I know, right?. By the by, Fleming’s new Broadway album is dreck so maybe she is better off in some administrative capacity at this late stage. And although I liked Hahn’s sound as sound per se in her new Bach disc, I felt that her sense of rubato and rhythmic precision abandoned her this time. The effect is like navigating on choppy seas. Very disorienting. Don’t have much to add on JDD other than she better work on her top which is growing thin, reedy and unreliable. (-:

  • Deborath says:

    And this is according to whom? I mean, this is so sad news. Honestly.

  • drummerman says:

    I mean no disrespect to Ms. Noltemy but she’s been in Dallas less than one year. Isn’t it a bit premature to “crown” her?

  • V.Lind says:

    In what respect is Hilary Hahn “powerful”?

  • Bruce says:

    Seems like different forms of power are on display and I’m not clear on what all of them are. Some cases, like Borda & Rutter & Parsons, are obvious in that they are in charge of big organizations. Others — di Donato, Hahn — I’m not sure I understand. Not arguing that they aren’t powerful, just not sure in what sense. Maybe in the sense that they get to choose when & where (& what) they perform? That’s certainly a form of power.

  • Miss Mazzoli is not a serious composer but a trendy flop, which devaluates the list considerably.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Better to be a “trendy flop” than an untrendy flop, I suppose. At least some people will enjoy hearing the music, even if it doesn’t last.

  • Anna Kendrick says:

    Just because an artist isn’t in charge of an organization doesn’t mean they can’t wield power. Hilary Hahn is the Taylor Swift of classical music. In the same way that Taylor Swift can mobilize 65,000 young people to register to vote in a 24-hour period from one Instagram post, Hilary Hahn has the same effect in the classical-music world. Ever hear of artists blogging? She was the trailblazer of that concept in 2002 with her “Postcards from the Road”. Ever hear of Twitter? She was there in 2008, before anyone else in the industry, and since then 75,000 followers have had the pleasure of following the storytellings of her @violincase. Ever hear of #100daysofpractice? That is the Instagram hashtag she created — let me rephrase that — the MOVEMENT she started which has mobilized hundreds of thousands of musicians to practice for 100 days in a row, working hard on the basics of technique, with over 120,000 videos posted by people all over the world and more growing each day. And her Encores project — where she commissioned 27 new short works by leading composers of today to be added to the violin repertoire which she felt was in need of expansion? So does she do more than just decide where and when she performs? Yes. And is this impact deemed worthy of news and recognition? Yes. Let’s not be quick to judge her rubato, and let’s laud the way she uses her power on an exponential level for the greater good of our field. Same goes for her trailblazing peers, from DiDonato to Mazzoli.

    • Caravaggio says:

      I am not on social media so was oblivious to Hahn’s efforts on various platforms. Good for her. But because of my distance from all that, it is things like rubato, and not number of followers, that count. Cheers.

  • John Porter says:

    Well, I guess that ‘US music’ doesn’t include things like jazz…

    As to Deborah Spar returning, it is much more likely that she will return to higher education where she can rule like royalty and at least know most of the subject matter at hand.

    Interesting that no funders are mentioned. Susan Feder at Mellon…Maurine Knighton at Duke…Margaret Lioi at Chamber Music America..

  • Robert Levin says:

    Mary Lou Falcone has been a public relations powerhouse for over forty years and deserves to be on the list of The Most Powerful Women in US Music. She was more or less single-handedly responsible for Renée Fleming’s illustrious career and has helped build and promote the careers of numerous other major international artists, including Gustavo Dudamel, Jaap van Zweden, Manfred Honeck, Christoph Eschenbach, Christopher Keene, Dennis Russell Davies, Pinchas Zukerman, Arleen Auger and Grace Bumbry. She has shared her public relations expertise with such distinguished organizations as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Linz Opera, along with Lucerne Festival, Carnegie Hall, Spring For Music, Birgit Nilsson Foundation, and the Avery Fisher Artist Program.

  • Elizabeth Hinckley says:

    Love that this list exists, but let’s be honest, the real title should be “The Most Powerful Women in Classical Music.”