Music Australia News

2015: a year for female conductors

Jessica Gethin (fifth from right) at Dallas Opera workshop concert Photo: Karen Almond
Graham Strahle
| December 21, 2015

This was a year of putting to rest some hoary old gender stereotypes, at least as far as conducting goes. In October, the QSO announced Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra as its new music director, and the Perth Symphony Orchestra has just appointed Jessica Gethin as its chief conductor (the PSO is a new orchestra formed in 2011 that performs both classical and popular genres). Earlier this year Gethin received the 2015 Brian Stacey Emerging Conductor Award and was named as one of 2015’s 100 Most Influential Women in Australia by the Australian Financial Review.

“What I do is phrase and shape and mould the music, I give instructions and I communicate what’s on the score from the composer to the musicians. That doesn’t rely on a gender,” she told the ABC.

Recognition must similarly go to Jessica Cottis, who distinguished herself at the helm of the QSO in November’s The Gallipoli Symphony.

In the US, Dallas Opera has launched a couple of particularly interesting initiatives to assist the cause of female conductors. It established a Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors, the first such institute in any country, and held a Dallas Opera workshop concert featuring six young female conductors from around the world. Gethin was one of those selected, and according to one local critic she “immediately displayed cool authority” on the podium.

Also just recently, Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla from Lithuania has been made assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and early music specialist Jane Glover conducted the New York Philharmonic in a much-praised performance of Messiah.

We have much to thank trailblazers Simone Young and Nicolette Fraillon in this country, and Marin Alsop in the US, for breaking down gender barriers to women entering and succeeding in the conducting profession.

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