Breakthrough coming for female conductors?

The New York Times’ Javier C. Hernández surveys the sparsity of female conductors among the major US orchestras, a situation that has persisted for decades after the emergence of Marin Alsop, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s music director from 2007 until earlier this year, and JoAnn Falletta, who leads the Buffalo Philharmonic and spent nearly 30 years at the helm of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

“Across 174 American ensembles of all sizes,” Hernández reports, “about 9 percent of music directors were women in 2016, the last year for which data [are] available, according to the League of American Orchestras.”

“[P]rogress has been painfully slow,” said Mark Volpe, former president and chief executive of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Volpe and other orchestra leaders expect that to change, perhaps rapidly. Hernández notes that “roughly a third of the music directors at the top 25 largest orchestras in the United States are planning to step down over the next several years,” and that administrators and conductor search committee members at several majors are determined to include women in their recruitment of new artistic leaders:

Virginians may read the Times article as time-capsule news: In addition to Falletta at the Norfolk-based Virginia Symphony, the orchestras of Roanoke, Charlottesville and Williamsburg have employed female music directors. Alsop, who was the Richmond Symphony’s associate conductor more than 30 years ago, was the first in an ongoing succession of women serving as associate or assistant conductors at Virginia orchestras. The Richmond Symphony’s current artistic and administrative leaders – Music Director Valentina Peleggi, Associate Conductor Chia-Hsuan Lin, Choral Director Erin Freeman and Executive Director Lacey Huszcza – are all women.