Jorma Panula in boys-only conducting contest

Jorma Panula in boys-only conducting contest


norman lebrecht

May 19, 2021

The finalists have been announced for the Panula Competition in Helsinki. The old maestro trainer has spoken out against women conductors and the list, with hardly any women, reflects his views.

Henri Christofer Aavik (Estonia),
Gaddiel Dombrowner (France),
Gevorg Gharabekyan (Switzerland),
Thomas Goff (UK),
Jascha Von der Goltz (Germany),
Aivis Greters (Latvia),
Ingunn Korsgård Hagen (Norway),
Nathanael Iselin (France),
Andres Kaljuste (Estonia),
Gerald Karni (France),
Johannes Marsovszky (Germany),
Joonas Pitkänen (Finland),
Joel Sandelson (UK/Germany),
Benjamin Schäfer (Germany),
Jack Sheen (UK),
Joanna Slusarczyk (Poland),
Jonathan Spandorf (Romania),
Dimitris Spouras (Greece),
Janne Valkeajoki (Finland),
Laurent Zufferey (Switzerland)


  • Paul Brownsey says:

    “boys only”
    “hardly any women”.

    Contradictory, since the latter means there *are” women, though very, very few.

  • drummerman says:

    No Americans??

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    Entirely possible that no women contestants rose to the level required to pass to the final round. Music competitions are about quality, not equality.

    • b says:

      Are you really trying to claim that conducting competitions have been c95% white men over the years purely on the basis of quality alone and no bias whatsoever? It’s never been about quality alone, it’s always been just as much about identity.

      FYI, at least two of the contestants are women. Would you be saying ‘Entirely possible that no male contestants rose to the level required to pass to the final round’ if it was all female conductors in the final? I think not. Time to examine your biases.

      • HugoPreuss says:

        Yes, of course I would say this to your hypothetical question. BTW, statistical opinions are worthless if we don’t know how many women applied in the first place. Which we don’t, apparently.

  • Gustavo says:

    Perhaps there are some transgenders on the list?

  • RW2013 says:

    Was he the gentleman that said that conductresses were “not his cup of tea”?

  • Jouko900 says:

    Why are you complaining, gentlemen? There was a competition only for female participants in Paris last year “La Maestra” and the next competition will be in 2022. Do not forget – gender equality gentlemen, gender equality !!

    • FrauGeigerin says:

      These people pushing for “equality”, “visibility” etc. don’t care about real equality between the sexes… they only care about advancing themselves. They know they need to play the “sex/equality/visibility” card because on their own merits they would not make it. I don’t see Mutter, Argerich, Simone Young, Sussana Mälkki, Midori etc. wasting a second on this.

  • Annasolano says:

    Nonsense. First, I doubt that he made the selection himself. I don’t see Panula watching hundreds of videos.
    Second, do you think it is possible that the selection was made based only on talent and quality and it happened that all the best participants were male? Or is the competition missing some quota?

  • Anon says:

    It always amazes me how hostile & defensive men are about this. Look, there’s a serious gender imbalance in conducting. It needs attention. Good for Norman for calling this competition & Panula out on it.

    There’s also a serious racial imbalance. What if white people started whining that Blacks are under-represented in classical music because they are “not of the level” of white people? That is exactly what the whining men in this thread sound like to me.

    • FrauGeigerin says:

      Yes, there should be a real equality: we need 50% male and 50% female. We need at least 10% black, 20% asian, 15 other non-white. We need at least 10% trangender. And it is essential that participants declare their sexual orientation, as we need at least 15% gay/lesbian. We need max. 60% European or USA.

      …. either that or we could have 100% the best participants applying, regardless of race, age, nationality etc.

      It is funny how it is thanks to those pushing for “inclusion”, “representation”, “visibility”, “quotas”, and/or “affirmative action” that race and sex is more relevant than ever. We live in very dark times.

      • Anon says:

        Frau, perhaps in your crystal palace in the EU, high atop the rest of the world, it is feasible for classical music to survive as an art form exclusively by and for European white males. Organizations like VPO would agree with you.

        In the real world, however, classical music is striving for relevance in a broader range of cultures in order to survive. The diverse audiences which we need must see people like themselves onstage.

        Diversity and inclusion are survival strategies to assure that classical music doesn’t go the way of the dinosaur in the 21st century.

        These are not “dark times” at all. It’s a brave new world.

        • Saxon says:

          Er…how many ethnic minority people live in much of Europe…not that many. The numbers aren’t approaching 50 percent of the population as it is in the US. Selected randomly exclusively from people from the whole of Europe, you really would not expect large numbers of non-white people.

          • Anon says:

            Um. There are women in Europe, right? This topic began as a discussion of the representation of women in conducting.

  • Santeri Kaipiainen says:

    A couple of errors here:
    1) Ingunn Korsgård Hagen and Joanna Slusarczyk are both women, so why label it “boys-only”? Yes, there still are very few women, but don’t twist the facts.
    2) The competition will be held in Vaasa, not in Helsinki, as it says on their webpage.

  • Robert says:

    One needs to be incredibly silly or malicious to believe that a woman can win the Besançon Competition and a woman can become chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic, but there is just one (or two?) woman who can pass the preliminary round at the Panula`s pseudo-competition.