Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Women-Only Conducting Workshops with Alice Farnham

by sarah - July 15th, 2015
http://www.morleycollege.ac.uk/

http://www.morleycollege.ac.uk/

It is hard to not be encouraged and inspired by the recent attention and action around the lack of opportunities for women conductors.  The momentum continues with the announcement that Alice Farnham will expand the workshop series she began in 2014 to provide even more meaningful and enriching opportunities for young women.

After an interview with BBC Radio 4 in which Farnham was asked to respond to the “woman conductor” question, she took the issue of opportunity into her own hands.  Following Marin Alsop making history as the first woman to conduct the final night of the Proms, and ridiculous comments made by Bruno Mantavani, head of the Paris Conservatorie, and Vasily Petrenko, principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic suggesting that conducting was not an occupation fit for a woman, creating opportunities for women to learn, experiment, and build confidence as conductors was essential.

Listen to a piece of the original interview here:


Morley College in South London hosted the first course in 2014.  Eight young women participated over three weekends, and in an interview with The Guardian many – for the first time – began to consider their options in conducting as a career path.

The initiative is now being repeated, and expanded.  With funding from Arts Council England, Morley College will host workshops throughout the 2015/2016 school year.  The two phases of workshops will engage the young (age 16-25) as well as those established in their careers.  Complete details available at the Morley College website.

The list of mentors participating in the workshops boasts women at the top of their field, including: Jane Glover, Sian Edwards, Julia Jones, Andrea Quinn, Sarah Tenant-Flowers, Jessica Cottis, and Rebecca Miller.

In an interview with Sinfini Music, Farhnam reiterated the importance of this program:

This course gives women the opportunity to learn conducting skills in a way they simply can’t on other courses. It’s an opportunity to try things out and ask questions that you might feel uncomfortable bringing up if you were feeling outnumbered as one of only a handful of women on a mixed course, as is so often the case.

I really want students to gain the confidence to go off and do other conducting courses off the back of these workshops, because at the moment the numbers just aren’t there. The truth is, there are very few women who consider conducting when they’re young. I’ve heard of auditions for associate conductor positions where just two of the 80 applicants were women, and that isn’t unusual, sadly.

This program, like the Dallas Opera Institute, boldly addresses the problem of opportunity – but not without criticism.  However, it is only through these unique learning environments that women conductors will gain the footing – and confidence – needed to take larger risks and make inroads in the field.  Perhaps by the time the Berlin or the NYPhil is looking for a new conductor hiring a woman won’t seem like too far of a stretch.

 

 

Monday Link Round Up

by sarah - June 1st, 2015

We’ve rounded up some links of interest from over the weekend.
Conductor JoAnn Falletta has renewed her contract with the Buffalo Philharmonic for another six years.  Falletta, who was also conductor of The Women’s Philharmonic (1986-1997), currently also leads the Virginia Symphony.  Read the story here.

 

NewMusicBox has an interview with Melinda Wagner.  The interview with the Pulitzer Prize winning composer was filmed in March.  Watch an excerpt of the conversation below, and visit NewMusicBox for more as well as a full transcript of the lengthy conversation.

 

 

Agata Sorotokin a (very) young and up and coming conductor spoke with The San Francisco Classical Voice about her early interest in conducting and how she came to be assistant conductor for the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra during this summer’s European tour.  Sorotokin, who will be attending Yale in the fall, also addressed the “woman conductor” question with grace:

Included on Sorotokin’s list of admired conductors is Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Sorotokin hopes there will be more opportunities for women conductors. “The world in general is moving in the right direction in terms of women leaders. I hope that would be the case for women music directors.”

“The fact that she happens to be female does not really come into play,” said [San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra conductor] Donato Cabrera, “but it makes it doubly satisfying knowing that we are able to nurture women in their pursuit of what has traditionally been a male-dominated field.”

Sorotokin thinks more about merit than the gender of conductors. “Bias, whether it be gender, or other external factors, has nothing to do with merit,” she said. “People saying, ‘oh, women should not be up there conducting’…that’s not driven by music, that’s driven by society and that’s what needs to be changed.”

 

 

And in feel-good news, the last original member of the Florida Orchestra is retiring after playing with the ensemble for 50 years.  Evelyn Pupello was just 17 when she began in the violin section.  Read more about her here.

 

 

News Round Up

by sarah - May 19th, 2015

Here are some headlines worth paying attention to:

Though the LA Philharmonic didn’t promote Saariaho’s world premiere, it received an excellent review in the LA Times:

The performance was strong. Dudamel remained constantly attuned to Saariaho’s vastly changeable instrumental colors, a cosmic sonic background for Finley, who handled each song with operatic intensity, part of a grand psychodrama of searching for meaning, for words that can obtain meaning through music but can also become emptied of meaning when sung. This is a profound, important work.

The New York Times offered a profile of Susanna Malkki before her conducting debut at the New York Philharmonic on Thursday.

The Juilliard String Quartet is facing the retirement of cellist Joel Krosnick who has been with the ensemble for 40 years – Astrid Schween will be his replacement, becoming the first woman to join the ensemble.

Read Alex Ross’ thoughts on the drama surrounding the Berlin Philharmonic and the search for a new conductor.  Though the classical music world was #WaitingForBerlin  just a week ago, perhaps the choice of conductor doesn’t really matter for the reasons people suggest:

Not the least of the challenges that classical music faces is the increasingly unworkable celebrity-maestro model—a twentieth-century mutation, stemming from a disproportionate emphasis on the music of prior eras. It is fundamentally irrational for musicians to play the same passel of pieces over and over. Conductors serve to generate the illusion of novelty: as Theodor W. Adorno wrote, in his “Introduction to the Sociology of Music,” the maestro “acts as if he were creating the work here and now.” That top-tier conductors are almost always men is less an indication of institutional misogyny—though that certainly exists—than an inevitable consequence of the play-acting ritual: because the canonical composers are entirely male, so are their stand-ins. The modern orchestra concert is not entirely unrelated to the spectacle of a Civil War reënactment.

Be sure to also read about the partnership between Parsons School of Design and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in an effort to redesign orchestra attire.

 

What did I miss?  Leave a link to your favorite news story from the past week in a comment below.

Julia Wolfe Wins Pulitzer

by sarah - April 21st, 2015

julia_wolfe_photo1_copyright_2009_peter_serlingCongratulations to Julia Wolfe on winning the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Anthracite Fields.  The piece is an oratorio inspired and based on the lives of Pennsylvania coal miners.  It was commissioned by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. Their website is full of information about the piece, the compositional process – which included extensive research, as well as the performers.  Anthracite Fields is going to be performed this weekend (April 26 and 27th) in Philadelphia – tickets are still available!

Here is Wolfe discussing the work:

Be sure to also read this great interview with Wolfe on NPR, which explores the process of writing:

By telephone Monday afternoon, the 57-year-old composer, originally from Pennsylvania, spoke with me from her home in Manhattan, where she had been reveling in the news(…). Wolfe took more than a year to write and research the work, visiting museums and interviewing miners. While talking to one daughter and granddaughter of miners, Wolfe discovered that in the small mining villages women spruced up their impoverished existences with gardens and flowers. That image, and a list of those flowers, forms one section of the piece.

Here is the flowers movement:

A full recording of the work will be released in September.

Wolfe is only the sixth woman to win the Pulitzer for music.  The other women are Ellen Taffe Zwilich (1983), Shulamit Ran (1991), Melinda Wagner (1999), Jennifer Higdon (2010), and Caroline Shaw (2013).

Classical Music Moonlighters

by sarah - March 24th, 2015

The Guardian has a great piece up highlighting “Classical Music Moonlighters“.

The list of composers who worked on music after they finished their day jobs includes:

  • Ethel Smyth (who was a composer first and turned to writing books – including a multi-volume autobiography – later in life)
  • St. Hildegard of Bingen (abbess, mystic, healer, author, composer)
  • Lera Auerbach (a novelist and visual artist, she is also well-known in Russia as a poet)

Which makes me think: who else?  Clara Schumann was a pianist first and a composer second, and Nadia Boulanger was an educator first.  How many women were first wives, mothers, and homemakers before they could spend time composing at the keyboard?

Why don’t we all take a listen to Spotify’s collection of works by women and add some other names to the list!

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