All-white line-up for international conducting competition

All-white line-up for international conducting competition


norman lebrecht

March 03, 2021

Denmark’s Malko Competition for Young Conductors, taking place in June this year, has whittled down 612 candidates to 24.

Seven of them are women, which marks a small degree of progress.

None, however, belongs to any ethnic minorities, except Asian.

Full list here.

pictured: Katharina Wincor (Austria)


  • Derek H says:

    Nobody from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, etc. despite their record of producing conductors (and other musicians).
    I suspect they will still produce more, in future, than these competitions.
    Many qualities are necessary to make progress including the deep musical traditions in those countries.

  • Derek H says:

    Apologies, I missed Anton Holmer of Sweden, but I hope you get my point. 🙂

  • M McAlpine says:

    Why does seven women indicate progress? It only indicates progress if the women are talented.

    • Greg Tiwidichitch says:

      I’m all for ALL decisions being based on talent. The trouble is creating an adjudicating system that can be free of bias from the jury.

    • BruceB says:

      I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that, if they had 612 applicants and narrowed it down to 24 (approx. 4%), the females they chose (7 ÷ 612 = approx. 1%) are talented.

      It’s interesting (sort of): the “but are they talented/ qualified” (talented if it’s a competition, qualified if it’s a job) seems to come up only when the subject is anyone other than white males.

      A more interesting question, for some, might be “how many promising females were passed over in favor of less-promising males?”

      • BruceB says:

        To be fair, a more pseudo-neutral phrasing for the question might be “were any promising females passed over in favor of less-promising males?” That way the implied assumption is only implied.

    • Patricia says:

      Why call it progress, when the drive is clearly political?

    • Jack says:

      Well, if they made the cut out of a group of over six hundred, I’d be willing to wager that they had some talent.

    • Nick says:

      Exactly!!! (as well as other so called “groups”). The one and only criterium is QUALITY OF TALENT!

      • happy women's day says:

        Except that talent hasn’t been the only criteria, historically. Or are you trying to argue that the overwhelming majority of talented conductors up until recently just happened, by pure and complete coincidence, to be white men?

  • IP says:

    And then we shall have to see about the inclusion of the aurally challenged.

  • Peggy says:

    Valentin Egel is a dead ringer for Dominic Thiem

  • Peter says:

    No minorities? There are 1,5 billion Chinese and 1 billion Indian people – so I guess white people is the minority in the world today?

    • Patricia says:

      By all means let’s promote some conductors. They will of course turn out to be spies.

      • doofus1714 says:

        dear patricia.
        the use of the term “chi-com” is offensive AND ignorant. maybe your comment was meant to be ironic? often this blog seems like a Fox News comment section. chi- com is a rush limbaugh/ conservative talk radio term that is foolish

  • James says:

    The competition has had a pretty spectacular run of successes in the past 15 years or so:

    Joshua Weilerstein 2009 (AD Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne)
    Rafael Payare 2012 (MD San Diego Symphony, incoming at OSM)
    Tung-Chieh Chuang 2015 (Generalmusikdirektor Bochum Symphoniker)
    Ryan Bancroft 2018 (Chief Conductor BBCNOW)

  • Rogerio says:

    The Danes are an ethnic minority.
    Here is a Danish joke, told by the Swedes;
    – A tall, blond, blue-eyed guy is standing with a parrot on his shoulder.
    – Someone walks by, looks and says; “what a magnificent animal!”.
    – The parrot says; “He is my friend Osegod.”

    You didn’t know why the Danes are not fond of the Swedes?
    Now you know.

  • IU says:

    The most outrageous piece of information in all of this is the presence of David Jang, who featured a sex scandal at the Indiana University for which he was expelled. There is an entry on this site about it:

  • Bill Ecker says:

    If you are speaking of an orchestra not hiring diverse, qualified and exciting guest conductors who bring people into concerts, I get it. However, in an open competition, first you have to have diverse contestants apply, then, they have to be the best in the pool. After looking at the 24, which are made up of both white and Asian, both male and female contestants, I will have to assume you are referring to black and brown when you use the word diversity. Is there a list of the original 612 contestants who applied to be in the competition? Did you review the list to see if there were any black, or brown contestants within the pool? Then, were any close enough in their performances to make the top 24? There is always subjectivity in these contests and also judges with agendas and favorites; but so many questions exist with the premise posed here and no specific answers. Without knowing those answers I for one would not publish an article like this without the benefit of the facts at hand.

  • MeToo says:

    It’s utterly disgusting that one of the participants, David Jang, has been suspended from his previous job after 20 people came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct, and yet the Malko Competition gives him a platform…

  • Matias says:

    “None, however, belongs to any ethnic minorities, except Asian.”

    Should read:

    “None, however, belongs to any ethnic minorities, except Asian, who don’t count.”

  • Bruno Michel says:

    Cheap sensationalism: “no ethnic minorities, except for Asians”. So there are Asians in the lot. So there ARE ethnic minorities. So what is the point of the wording of this post?

  • RW2013 says:

    If the pictured (“I don’t know anything about string-playing”) is involved, it can’t be such a serious competition (if there is such a thing).

    • why the grudge? says:

      Will you ever let that go?
      Have you ever worked with her? I did, and I can assure you that she is actually really good.

  • Guha says:

    I guess they should stop taking the best people for the sake of being more “diverse?” Norm, you’re pathetic.

    (This is coming from a brown person by the way).

  • Greg Tiwidichitch says:

    “Only one of them is Asian, which marks a lack of progress”

  • Alank says:

    As others noted what is the point of your headline? I find it offensive to end it with ” no ethnic minorities other than Asians”. So you now want to prescribe a quota system on who gets to make the finals? I have yet to see any comparable negative observations that the American Football draft typically includes racial or ethnic minorities “except for Asians”. Maybe the pool of Asian conductors is much larger than for other ethnic minority conductors. The music world is by no means removed from politics and favoritism in the audition process, but the notion of applying affirmative action is ridiculous

  • Patricia says:

    I think we have all had enough of the ‘diversity’ hook. Either you can do it or you can’t. Time for NlB to get off this. It’s boring and predictable, and has nothing to do with talent.

  • Ms.Melody says:

    Is there a limit to how low we sink??? In a conductor competition we are counting the number of men and women and looking at numbers of contestants by race instead of focusing on the level of performance and telling us what works will/ must be performed!

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Talent doesn’t matter any more. The only factor that counts is the one over which you have no jurisdiction.

      • c says:

        Are you really trying to claim that up until now the only thing that has counted in conducting is talent and it was just a coincidence that almost all talented people were white men? Give over.

  • Martin says:

    ‘So what’ seems the obvious thought? Had they all been black women then would that observation be made at all? I rather think, not.

    It matters not one jot the gender, ethnicity or sexuality. What matters is those considered best on their talents. Much the same as tje rest of life.

  • It seems obvious that all choices must be made ONLY on talent. It is not important at all how many women or men are admitted to the final step of this important competition or their nationality. In my long experience as a teacher or president or jury member or teaching in masterclasses I met some of this selected conductors and I can declare they are all good conductors. I wish them all the best. It would be statistically important to know how many women applied, in my experience so far they are no more than 15% of the applicants. By the way the huge number of applicants should be a guarantee of quality of the selected conductors.
    I can add also that in my experience I have seen very few conductors apply from some countries or from some ethnical groups. My dream is to see a competition where the application fee is decided on the average salary of each country. Probably it will remain a dream, but I have been in some jury in countries where all the applicants came from abroad because the economy level of that country was very low and conductors living in that country could not afford to pay the fee.
    Concerning the selected conductor that has been suspended for sexual abuse, nobody would write this in a curriculum vitae and the jury of the selection is not obliged to know all the things on every personal life of a conductor. If I was in charge of the Malko Competition I will exclude immediately this conductor replacing him with the first of the waiting list

  • Paul says:


    As soon as I read the headline, I knew with 99% confidence that it wouldn’t be accurate or truthful. But the raison d’être, as always, is “click bait”.

    Congrats, it worked again.

  • Tomtom says:

    ‘Competitions are for horses not artists’….Bela Bartok.

  • Geiger says:

    This Ms. Wincor really minds me the awkward expression on Maestro Ivan Fischer and some Concertgebouworkest players’ faces. She won the Neeme Järvi Prize in a conducting project led by her own professor. After her terrible rehearsals in Fischer’s live-streaming class, people even asked about what made she become the assistant to Fabio Luisi in Dallas.
    Now, she is there agian, in a competition which Luisi leads the Jury. Interesting.

  • Tamino says:

    So it is suggested, they should select the candidates based on their race? How racist is that?
    What do we know about the field of applicants, to make such incriminating and lazy accusations, that people from minorities were suppressed?
    One is just shaking one‘s head about all this click-bait greedy nonsense.

  • Christopher Poole says:

    “All white, except for the Asians”??? Are you on drugs, Norman?