The 2019 guide to women in the podium

I have written an extensive piece for Standpoint on the perpendicular rise of women with batons.

It starts like this:

Change is coming — gender change. Half of England’s orchestras and opera houses are looking for a music director. Vladimir Jurowski and Esa-Pekka Salonen are leaving the London Philharmonic and the Philharmonia. Antonio Pappano has served notice on Covent Garden. Opera North is headless. Vasily Petrenko is stepping down at the Royal Liverpool Phil and Mark Elder has supposedly renewed for the last time at the Hallé. 

This kind of mass transition is rare, so much so you’d have to go back to 1990 when Bernstein and Karajan died. Then, it was about generational shift. Now, it’s about gender politics….

Read on here.




share this

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on google
  • Interesting article but orchestras don’t always have formal “shortlists” (and if they do, they don’t make them public) – so it’s hard to say anything authoritative about their composition. There’s just industry gossip and speculation, which – at least during the conductor searches in which I’ve participated – has often been comically wide of the mark.

    Also, Iona Brown held a guest-director post with the City of Birmingham Synphony Orchestra, to considerable acclaim, in the mid-1980s.

  • Norman,

    That is a very fair summary of the progress made to date.

    A breakthrough is happening and it will be interesting to see how it evolves.

    Also, I would like to mention Stamatia Karampini, another conductor with a lot of ability, who I hope will receive more recognition.

  • Wonderfully informative and lobbyistic. Now, when will we see more afro-conductors? Or don’t they study conducting at all? History has only seen a modest handful, like Dean Dixon, Everett Lee, Henry Lewis, James DePreist, Paul Freeman, Isaiah Jackson, and lately only Kwamé Ryan and Roderick Cox…
    Time to do some digging and promotion?

  • In relation to ethnic minorities, I doubt there are any barriers to success based on ethnicity, provided there is ability. Even in the past, conductors like Mehta, Ozawa & Myung Whun Chung succeeded without any problems. It is a different story with women, but things are improving. When it comes to major positions though, the only criteria for selection should be based on merit regardless of gender or ethnicity. For example, I would be horrified , purely on musical grounds, if they were to appoint Simone Young to take over Berlin State Opera (even if that may appear to be a positive win for gender equality). The striving for highest quality music making should take precedence over every other concern.

    • ” if they were to appoint Simone Young to take over Berlin State Opera”
      From where does this rumour emanate?!

    • But with problems for listeners. Ozawa was a mediocrity far beyond his level. Mehta is terrific at times but often boring. A conductor needs to be thoroughly cultured to be convincing. Nagano is a far-better example than Ozawa.

    • Mustafa: I was referring to “affirmative mediatic action”, something that obviously transcends ethnicity and foremostly merit…

    • Mustafa: I was talking about “positive mediatic discrimination”, something that obviously transcends ethnicity and merits…

  • “Perpendicular,” eh? That sounds completely sexual. And it is completely dishonest if you don’t acknowledge that it is a purely politic trend and nothing to do with artistry or quality or qualifications. The female conductors I saw who came out of Curtis were utterly weak as leaders with nothing to say musically. (So were some of the men.) They now have careers they barely deserve as second-tier conductors, in positions that should be held by men in training for first-tier positions. The result of this will be less opportunity and training for men, and a lowering in quality of all conducting.

    • LG writes: “a purely politic trend and nothing to do with artistry or quality”

      Er…more women having an interest in conducting, and not being stopped means that inevitably that there will be more women conducting the major orchestras. Do some of them receive opportunities because they are woman? Almost certainly…but it is only accelerating the process of there being more female conductors at the top of the profession. (And more female conductors is merited on purely musical grounds.)

  • Sian Edwards does not teach conducting at the Guildhall. She is Head of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music whilst continuing to pursue a busy performing schedule.

  • I think if we are to assess ANY conductor, we need to base it on quality of performances, rehearsal technique, and off-the-podium skills that make a difference to the bottom line of an organization. Why do we have to hype that this orchestra hired 3 women and this one none? Give women, black, unknowns, etc a chance by assessing SKILLS as a conductor and not PC quotas. I’m all for finding talent. Look everywhere and not just in the usual spots which are tied up in politics.

  • >