Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Minority and Women conductors

The lack of women and minorities among the ranks of conductors in the United States is one that is proven both a casual glance and an in depth study of numbers. The lack of women conductors is also an issue in Britain where apart from Jane Glover in the Royal Academy of Music, there are no women in any of the higher positions in the orchestras of that country, while in Lisbon, Portugal half of the 6 conducting jobs that are available feature women in those roles. This shows that given the chance women can rise to the top of the conducting field given the proper opportunity in the biggest cities.

Minority conductors face added pressures that women do not face with the foremost of them being racism and lack of opportunity. According to black musician Aaron Dworkin classical music has yet to even being to confront the issue of racism. In an analysis of 200 symphony orchestras in the U.S. in 2000, 1.4% of all musicians were black and 1.9% were Latino which was actually a declining number from the early 1990’s. For minorities to even aspire to being the leaders of orchestras the actual number of minority musicians must go up. Another thing that would have to be addressed in creating higher numbers of minority conductors especially among blacks is to increase their exposure to an art medium that has traditionally not seen black participate in it.

The stereotypical view of orchestral conductors as an upper class white male is part of the reason for the lack of women and minorities among orchestral conductors. Classical music is a music that is strongly tied to tradition, and the traditional elements of classical music have never seen women and minorities go far. The music played is often times music composed by European males such as Mozart and others. In Italy Julia Jones becoming the first women to conduct Wagner was a major thing due to the perception of Wagner music perhaps being beyond the reach of a woman to conduct. The traditional view of women as not being strong enough to lead and command men is a giant problem for women hoping to rise up in the ranks. The upper-class traditions of classical music also work well to bar many minorities especially blacks from getting involved in classical music from the outset, since blacks have been traditionally at the bottom of the class scale in the United States. All the upper-class trappings that are associated with the music are beyond the reach of many blacks and unless there are school programs are some kind of endowment program being used for blacks, many of them are never exposed to classical music.

The Guardian. Accessed from http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/tomserviceblog/2010/jan/22/women-conductors-julia-jones
The San Diego Union Tribune. Accessed from http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20051016/news_1a16conduct.html
The Free Library. Accessed from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Classical+music:+Black+and+Latino+musicians+hope+to+change+the+image+...-a0157950599
BBC. Accessed from http://www.bbc.co.uk/musictv/maestro/news/do-men-hog-the-podium/
BBC. Accessed from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7612180.stm

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