France launches effort to correct gender imbalance in classical music


Very few women occupy managerial positions in the world of classical music. In fact, only about 6% of professional classical music orchestras are headed by women.

Now, in France, there is an effort to increase the number of women at the head of orchestras. This is an international competition in Paris called La Maestra. The event gives female conductors a chance to show off their skills.

More than 200 women – from Asia, Europe and the Americas – participate in the competition. The winner will be announced later this month.

Laurent Bayle is director of the Orchester philharmonique de Paris. He says the winner and those in high place will get two years mentoring and other support.

Many observers say this kind of support is needed. Women conduct nearly 40% of orchestras in Belgium, but only 3% of French orchestras have women conductors. In the United States, only eight percent of conductors are women.

The Philharmonie de Paris, known in French as the Philharmonie de Paris, is doing better. About 30% of its visiting conductors this season are women, an increase from a few years ago.

A mixture of reasons, from historical to cultural, would be responsible for the lack of advancement in the field of classical music. Bayle noted that in France, for example, the country egalitarian The system disapproves of actions designed primarily to help women and minority groups.

Claire Gilbault is one of the few female conductors in France. She conducts the Orchester Mozart de Paris, which helped organize the competition. She told VOA that men run all the great music organizations and like to share power between them.

La Maestra changes that. Its jury is made up of an equal number of men and women and is headed by a conductor.

But for this all-female competition, performance is the most important Criteria.

Italy’s Sara Caneva, 29, was the first candidate to perform. She noted that the coronavirus pandemic has made the competition more difficult.

“It’s the first, it’s after a long period without directing because of the confinement, she says.

Holly Hyun Choe of the United States felt better about her performance. She is currently working as a conductor in Switzerland.

“Of course that has to come with a lot of luck, a lot of hard work and your own talent. ”

The Philharmonic’s Bayle said the purpose of the event was to get other European orchestras to invite these conductors to perform.

I am Susan Shand.

Lisa Bryant of VOA reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it to learn English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in this story

professional – adj. not amateurs, those with the highest skills

orchestra – n. a group of musicians who play compositions

mentor – v. teach and help

driver – n. the conductor

advancement – n. to move forward or higher in a system

egalitarian – adj. the idea that everyone should be treated equally

Criteria – n. the skills judged during a competition

confinement n. forcing people to stay indoors to avoid contagious disease


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