So, you don’t think gender bias is still rife in classical music? Let’s talk conducting. In the summer of 2013, Marin Alsop, Baltimore’s admired and respected conductor, became the first woman to conduct at the BBC’s Last Night Proms since the Prom’s founding in 1895. Imagine, no women conductors on the Prom’s most important night for 118 years. Over that time period, women won the right to vote, discrimination based on gender was outlawed, and women went into space! However, more than likely during this period, women who strove to be conductors were relegated to living out their dreams at home, expressing themselves artistically through a child’s rattle while men expressed themselves with baton in hand.
The Guardian’s James Rhodes, reflecting on conductors at the 2013 London event, stated that sexism was rife in the world of conducting. For example, Vasily Petrenko, a talented and award-winning Russian conductor, went on record at the Proms saying that women conductors were a sexual distraction for an orchestra.
Readers, let me know if things have radically changed. Especially you young musicians working in music and who are surrounded by other musicians, composers, conductors. Can you provide some persuasive examples of revolutionized, or even substantially improved, attitudes and circumstances for women around the podium three years later?
– Sandra Blake