Women on the Choral Conducting Podium: How Are We Doing?

November 30, 2011 / By: Susan C. Fergus

The feminist movement in America and around the world has impacted women profoundly.  In centuries past, women wishing to develop their musical skills in composition, performance, or conducting were often denied access to training, ensembles, or opportunities where they could hear their works performed or practice their craft.  Gender equity for orchestral and choral conductors alike has progressed more slowly than for composers and performers.

This project examined the historical role of women as composers, music educators, orchestral performers, orchestral conductors, and choral conductors.  The focus of the project was on the gender of conductors of honor choirs sponsored by the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) and the Organization of American Kodaly Educators (OAKE) from 2000 to 2012.  Data illustrated that gender inequity continues to exist in the choral podium of high-profile honor choir ensembles.  Of special note were the statistics revealing that male conductors of mixed honor choirs (SATB) in both organizations outnumbered females by over 3 to 1.

Choral conductors and pedagogues were challenged to feature women in high-profile conducting opportunities more often in order to provide aspiring young conductors with role models and to broaden the pool of available talent to choral programs everywhere.