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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000218.txt from 2005/07

From: "Lacy, Edwin" <>
Subj: [kl] RE: What is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's problem with new female conductor Marin Alsop?
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 16:20:59 -0400

I intended to send this message to the list, but mistakenly sent it only
to the person who originally posted on this topic. I'll take the
liberty of sending it now, with a couple of editorial changes

-----Original Message-----

The subject line of your message implies that the problem with her
candidacy is that she is a woman. According to what I have read, the
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has quite a few women in it, and 90% of the
orchestra voted NOT AGAINST MS. ALSOP, but to keep the search open
longer. The chairman of the board of directors of the orchestra listed
a number of reasons that he wanted to hire her immediately. As I read
it, his reasons included the fact that she had charisma, was personable,
etc. However, he did not list among his reasons that she was a great
conductor. Let me emphasize that I have never observed her conducting,
so I don't know how good she is - she may be the world's greatest (but
according to an Associated Press story of today, very few members of the
Baltimore Symphony have a very high opinion of her abilities).

It isn't surprising that a board of directors would have a tendency to
hire a conductor on the basis of non-musical reasons, or that they would
be pre-disposed to hire a conductor whom the players opposed. Boards of
directors almost always stupidly assume that there is something sinister
or suspicious going on when the players in an orchestra favor or oppose
a certain candidate. Their assumption is that the players want a
conductor who will be "easy on them." Actually, nothing could be
further from the truth. All the players want is a conductor who enables
them to play at their very best, which is what they have devoted their
entire lives to. It doesn't matter to any professional orchestra
players I know whether the conductor is male, female, Zoroastrian,
Mugwump or Martian, just so long as they are competent.

This message also contains a misstatement of fact: <<<"She's the first
woman to be appointed musical director for a major U.S. orchestra.">>>

I wonder how JoAnn Falletta feels about that. She has been music
director and conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic since 1999, and I
think the people in Buffalo feel that their orchestra is just as "major"
as the one in Baltimore. According to the American Symphony Orchestra
League, both orchestras fall in that category. Also, we shouldn't
forget that Sarah Caldwell conducted at the Metropolitan Opera many
years ago. She wasn't regarded by most musicians as a particularly
outstanding conductor, but so what? Ormandy wasn't very good either,
and in the minds of many non-musicians he is regarded as a prime example
of the conductor's art. Further, in the 1940's, Nadia Boulanger
conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and
the Philadelphia Orchestra. There are other examples, including one of
the best conductors I have ever had the experience of working with,
Fiora Contino.

Ed Lacy
University of Evansville

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