Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Olivia Block on NPR

by sarah - January 8th, 2016

NPR’s Morning Edition shared the work of Chicago based composer Olivia Block as part of the series, “Musicians in their own Words.”

In a story that ran on January 7th, Block walked listeners through the soundscape of downtown Chicago and shared how she discovers and records sounds in her day to day life to incorporate in her electroacoustic compositions.  Listen here:

And this morning, January 8, Block invited listeners to learn more about her new collection of used cassette tapes, and the recordings from the past that she discovers still on the magnetic tape:

Read more about Block on her professional website or listen to more of her work on her SoundCloud page.

2015 In Review

by sarah - December 30th, 2015


This was an exciting year for those of us following women’s work in music.  We’ve already talked a bit about the tremendous opportunities and advancements women have made in conducting roles.  But Let’s also take some time to look at the plethora of “Highlight” lists that have been shared online and see how they compare to our favorite stories and concerts:


Sinfini Music was very deliberate in highlighting the achievements that women have made in the UK in the past year – including the appointment of Xian Zhang, the first woman to have  a titled role at a BBC Orchestra, Jessy McCabe, who successfully petitioned Edexcel to include works by women in their A Level Music curriculum, and Tansy Davies premiered a new opera, Between Worlds.


The 2015 Staff Picks of music at NewMusicBox includes works by  Du Yun, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and winner of the 2015 Pulitzer for Music, Julia Wolfe.


From The GuardianAndrew Clements’ top 10 concerts included Tansey Davies Re-Greening, a new commission by the Nation Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (read the original review here).  Tim Ashley included an exciting production we missed – the revival of Francesca Caccini’s La Liberation di Ruggiero done by the Brighton Early Music Festival (original review is here).  However, no works by women appeared in Tom Service’s, Fiona Maddocks’, or George Hall’s list.


NPR’s list of top 10 classical albums for 2015 includes Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s In the Light of Air, featuring the International Contemporary Ensemble.


Thorvaldsdottir was also featured in Alex Ross’s annual year in review at The New Yorker, with mentions in the Performance category (“In the Light of Air” at the Ojai Festival) and in Recordings (“In the Light of Air” as recorded by the International Contemporary Ensemble).  Ross also took note of Laurie Anderson’s installation at the Park Avenue Armory, and recordings of works by Rebecca Saunders, Liza Lim, Helena Tulve, and Paula Matthusen.  Read more here.


It was disappointing to see that no works by women were included in Fred Plotkin’s list at WQXR’s Operavore blog acknowledging the new operas that premiered in 2015.  There was no mention of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain, the first fully staged performance of Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers, or Tansy Davies’ Between Worlds.


As we move on from 2015 we can reflect on and be glad for the dozens of great concerts, new opportunities for women as conductors and performers, and greater attention being generally brought to the work of women in music – as well as to look ahead for more excellent programming in the year to come!

New Associate Conductor for LA Phil

by sarah - August 12th, 2015

mirga-175The Los Angeles Philharmonic has announced that Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has been promoted from Assistant Conductor to Associate Conductor.  The LA Times has the story here.

Gražinytė-Tyla, Lithuanian by birth, was a Dudamel Fellow in the 2012-2013 season, after already making a name for herself by winning international conducting awards.  Her continued rise shouldn’t be shocking to anyone who has watched her developing career.  She has received praise from Alex Ross in The New Yorker when conducting the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl, from Christopher Morley in the Birmingham Post when conducing the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (UK), from Melinda Bagreen in The Seattle Times (when conducing the world premiere of Mason Bates’ Cello Concerto), and from Mark Swed in The LA Times.

Be sure to read David Ng’s profile from December 2014.

Here is a video of Gražinytė-Tyla in action conducting the rehearsal of Georg Druschetzky’s Concerto for Oboe and Timpani:

Women-Only Conducting Workshops with Alice Farnham

by sarah - July 15th, 2015


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.



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