Showing posts with label Women in Classical Music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Women in Classical Music. Show all posts

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Transformative women in music initiative secures €200k from Creative Europe

Absolutely stunning news today from the PRS Foundation that the Keychange initiative has been awarded a grant of €200,000 by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. The money will enable a new network of female artists and innovators to collaborate and showcase their work at partner festivals from Estonia to Canada. (You can see the participating organisations in the poster above.)

An effort stemming from and building upon the PRS Foundation's experience of running the highly successful Women Make Music fund in the UK, Keychange's far-reaching aim is "to transform Europe's music industry for current and future generations by accelerating recognition of women's artistic and economic value and empowering them to work together across European and international borders".

This talent development initiative will directly benefit 35 music creators and 30 innovative industry professionals, while a digital platform will facilitate the involvement of hundreds more. Participants will be selected through a nomination process and joint selection at the Reeperbahn Festival in Germany in September. The partners plan to present a joint manifesto for change to the European Parliament in 2019.

Vanessa Reed, Chief Executive of PRS Foundation said: “I’m delighted that we’ve succeeded as lead partner in our application to Creative Europe in spite of uncertainties posed by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. European and international collaboration is essential to the creative and business development of individual artists and the industry as a whole. Keychange’s focus on giving talented women access to international networks and new markets at critical stages in their career will help them realise their potential as future leaders of an industry that is ready for change. I’m proud to be working with such an impressive line-up of festivals and music organisations to realise this ambitious European project which is based on shared values and a joint commitment to shifting the status quo.

Read more about it here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Breakthrough: First female conductor wins titled post in a BBC orchestra

Xian Zhang. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
Here's a gentle crack in the glass overhead: Xian Zhang has been named principal guest conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. This is the first time ever that a conductor who happens to be female has been given a titled post with one of the BBC's five orchestras. Note the date: December 2015.

Zhang, 42, has also recently been appointed music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and has served as music director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi since 2009. Her debut performance in her new BBCNOW post will be on 27 September 2016.

She is interviewed by Tom Service in The Guardian today.

I talked to her last year for Classical Music Magazine's 'Meet the Maestro' series. Here are a few choice quotes:
Zhang, 40, has been at the helm of the [Milan] orchestra – which is known at home as simply La Verdi – for five years, the first woman ever appointed music director of an Italian symphony orchestra. She says that has witnessed a sea-change in attitudes. “In the beginning it was like no-man’s land – or no-woman’s land!” she laughs. “People here had never seen a woman conductor before. Of course I arrived without realising that. It was probably better that way, because otherwise I would have been way too intimidated.”...
....As for what she wryly terms “the woman conductor question”, Zhang suggests: “It’s a matter of time. I think the public is in general very open, but orchestras and people who work in this environment have to be perhaps less self-protective – this is stopping more progress from happening earlier. They don’t necessarily have to be positive about it, but at least to be neutral and see if people are gifted before considering if they are a woman or a man.” In Milan, though, she has spotted a surprise advantage. “A quintessential point in Italian culture is that people greatly respect a mother figure,” she says. “Maybe that helped me to be accepted as conductor of an orchestra. It makes sense! When I first arrived I was seven months pregnant with my first son, so that was how people saw me for the first time. At my first concert after my second son was born, some of the audience gave me presents for the baby. I was so touched.”
Read the whole interview here...

NOTE (4 December): A certain amount of Twitter chatter has questioned whether this counts because JoAnn Falletta was principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra from 2011 to 2014 and the Ulster Orchestra receives some money and broadcasts from the BBC. So let's get this straight: the BBC tells me that the Ulster Orchestra is not "a BBC orchestra" because it is not managed by the BBC. It is an independent orchestra and it has a broadcasting deal. "Principal guest conductor" meanwhile remains a post of significant prominence, one that is held in other UK orchestras by the likes of Daniel Harding (LSO), Pinchas Zukerman (RPO) and Markus Stenz (The Hallé).

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Women in music: positive action works

I've got a piece in the new edition of Classical Music Magazine, responding to one last month by Alexandra Coghlan.

Here's Alexandra's piece, in which she asserts that women in music are being spotlighted for all the wrong reasons.

Here's mine, pointing out the inconvenient truth that sometimes affirmative action works...

In the late 1980s, my generation emerged from college believing we could have it all. We imagined the battle for ‘Women’s Lib’ had been won and we would be its beneficiaries. We thought that if we tried to put in place conditions for discrimination and prejudice to disappear, they would, by some kind of natural, progressive evolution. Ever since, we’ve been finding out how wrong we were.
That applies throughout society, of course, and classical music is no exception. With Suffragette receiving top billing in the cinemas as I write, it’s clear that there is a preoccupation with these issues in the world around us right now – and with good reason...
Read the whole thing here. (I'm happy to say that even if Alexandra and I may disagree, we're good friends and colleagues and we applaud each other's right to speak up.)
Meanwhile, if you were in any doubt that positive action can effect change, just take a look at the Lucerne Festival. Yes, mighty Lucerne; Lucerne the wealthy and beautiful; historical Lucerne, founded to counter Bayreuth and Salzburg beyond the Third Reich's reach; Lucerne where Wagner wrote Tristan, has announced that in 2016 its theme is "Prima Donna": a focus on women artists. And it is going to feature ELEVEN (11) conductors who are female, at the helm of top orchestras from around the world. 
Emmanuelle Haim, who will conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in Lucerne.
Photo: Simon Fowler, (c) Warner Classics

Marin Alsop will make her Lucerne debut with the São Paolo Symphony Orchestra. Barbara Hannigan is to conduct the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Susanna Mälkki will conduct the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra in the world premiere of a new work by Olga Neuwirth, who is composer in residence. A "day of adventure" [sic] brings in the conductors Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla, Anu Tali, Maria Schneider, and Konstantia Gourzi. And Emmanuelle Haim, the French baroque suprema, is to take the podium for the Vienna Philharmonic, which as we all know isn't exactly renowned for the number of women it admits to its ranks. (Well, renowned for exactly that. Because there are so few.) 
And in case you were in any doubt, there are plenty of men around as well. Riccardo Chailly, recently appointed music director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, will conduct opening night, which is Mahler's Symphony No.8.
The risk of the "prima donna" focus, of course, can be summarised as "been there, done that, bought the t shirt". It's a super celebration, but what one wants is consistency: equality of opportunity that becomes normal and ultimately unremarkable because it is so accepted. The fact that Lucerne is doing this means that all the activism, the articles, the general "noise" about women in music is having an impact in the places it matters. The long-term effect, though, needs to be different. Lucerne is offering a chance for the movers and shakers of the music world to sample the excellence of great artists who happen to be female. We'd like them then to win enduring opportunities as a result. Things can't just go back to business as usual. 
Bravo, Lucerne, for biting the bullet and sounding the trumpet. And I look forward very much to seeing how Emmanuelle gets along with the Viennas. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Speaking of women in music... is the video of the conference about inequalities in classical music, held at King's College, London, a few weeks ago. The panel includes academics Christina Scharf and Anna Bull, conductor Alice Farnham, Beverley Mason and myself, and the music is provided by an extraordinary young musician whom you should hear if you haven't already, Ayanna Witter-Johnson - cellist, singer, composer and more. Her song about her mother was so touching that it had us all in pieces. Under the title "What lies beneath?" we each spoke on the topic of inequality as we have perceived, researched or experienced it and offer some thoughts about what to do about it.

Meanwhile, there is some sign that the groundswell of consciousness-raising on this topic is having an effect on programming, and sometimes in the most positive and interesting ways. Next year's Brighton Early Music Festival is presenting the first opera ever written by a woman - La liberazione di Ruggiero, by Francesca Caccini. They're getting it crowd-funded and you can support their efforts here. Meanwhile the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival) is also doing Caccini and Barbara Strozzi, alongside lads like Monteverdi and Rameau.