Yes, we should. Congratulations to Ms. Kilburn. I’m sure she’ll do a wonderful job.
But pardon me if I pour a little cynicism into the soup by posing two questions:
First of all, why is this the first female band conductor hired by a prestigious academy that has been operating for 50 years, an offshoot of an arts camp founded in the 1920s?
Secondly, (pointing out again that I don’t disagree that we should all celebrate these milestones), it still angers me that these ARE milestones, and that they warrant celebration.
Should it be exciting to see women moving into the “men’s” areas of the arts? For decades it was considered appropriate for women to play the piano (as long as it was only a “little”; it was not, appropriate for her to be “too good” or to seem to care “too much” or to try “too hard”). It was also acceptable for her to sing, and to study musicology. Eventually it was even expected that women interested in music as a career would be a piano or voice teacher, or study music education and teach in an elementary school.
It was NOT considered suitable for a woman to do something so vulgar as to play as a brass or woodwind instrument, nor strings (especially not a cello, as the sitting/instrument placement position would be unseemly at best.) Nor was it seemly for a woman to be a composer. Felix Mendelssohn claimed that his sister Fanny was a much better composer than he was, and valued her opinions and input regarding all of his musical compositions; but she was not “allowed” to published her own. Clara Schumann was a concert pianist, but her “career” really took off after Robert’s hospitalization and then death from mental illness, probably because it was considered absolutely necessary for her to pursue this career in order support her family. When Gustav and Alma Mahler began their relationship, Gustav wrote her a letter, telling her that he was looking for a wife, not a colleague, and that it would only make things complicated if they were both to pursue careers as composers (can you imagine?). Amy Beach willingly gave up her performance career at the request of her new husband, and became Mrs. Henry Harris Aubrey Walker Beach.
A woman should certainly NOT be so presumptuous as to place herself at the front of an ensemble and tell the musicians, some of whom one could expect would be men, what to do and when or how to do it.
Just in case you think I’m being paranoid, let’s look at some numbers:
At the college where I teach there are eight full-time faculty plus the director. Two of them are women — the head of the piano area, and the head of the theory/composition area. Less than 25%.
At the college where my husband teaches women constitute 3 of 8 brass faculty, 1 of 7 piano faculty, 1 of 7 string faculty (harp), 3 of 7 woodwinds, 1 of 8 conductors (choral), 1 of 6 music theory, and 3 of 6 music education.
This is 10 out of the listed 49 full-time positions. 20%. This is shameful. Granted I haven’t included voice which is 3 and 3, or composition, which is 0 for 4. Hmmmm. Not really helping.
Just to pick another large school in my state with a reputable music program, let’s look at the numbers at the University of Michigan: All ten conductors are male; two of the eleven jazz faculty are women, although five of the six music education professors are women (see?); two of fourteen full-time positions in percussion/winds/brass are held by women. Six of fourteen music theorists are women, so that’s pretty good, but really?
If we omit the music education professors, we have 10 out of 39. Still around 25%
I believe I pointed out in a previous post that even most of the VISITING performers to the Interlochen Visiting Artists concerts are men.
How can this be?
If you look around in a piano studio or a school band or orchestra or choir, or even at the most prestigious arts camps like Interlochen, the majority of the students are women.
Where do they go?
And why isn’t anybody else noticing, or doing something about it?
Oh, yeah. We’re celebrating.
Guess I was too caught up in my domestic tasks and my pre-menstrual/perimenopausal mood swings to notice.