Monday, October 19, 2009

Breaking the Gender Barrier

The title of our reading for this week, Music and Gender, reminded me of a story from a few years ago that I wanted to share. It's not really current news anymore except within the tuba community, but it is still a good story and shows one of the positive directions that music is going. In 2006, the Philadelphia Orchestra had an opening for the principal tuba seat and nobody could have predicted what would have happened. We know that the Philly Orchestra in considered to be one of the "big 5" in terms of US Orchestras (the others being NY, Boston, Cleveland and Chicago). So as it would be with any seat in the orchestra, the tuba seat was expected to have a massive audition number and it lived up to expectations with around 200 tubists trying out for the spot. The person that ended up standing at the end was Carol Jantsch who not only became the first woman to earn a tuba seat in a major orchestra but one of the youngest, being 21 years old and finishing up her senior year at the University of Michigan. To put that in perspective, Gene Pokorny, the tubist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been playing with Chicago almost as long as Carol has been alive. In a profession where tubists enjoy sitting in an orchestra they enjoy for as long as possible, the premier seats become even harder to get. It truly is an amazing accomplishment.

You can see one of the original articles on this here.

1 comment:

Olga.K said...

That’s truly amazing that tuba, mainly male instrument, is so widely played by women.
It’s very noticeable that gender issue is no longer present, at least here in America. If you look around, for example in the conservatory, there are more female students, than male. Is that because men tend to choose more reliable jobs? Or it’s a result of the victory of the gender rights equality.
Also, the auditions for the orchestras are usually behind the curtains, so the judges cannot tell whether it’s a woman or the man is playing. It’s only matter of quality of playing. About 7 years back, when I was a student at Saint Petersburg Conservatory, I played an audition for Philharmonic orchestra. It was an open audition in the concert hall and anyone could attend. The judges were sitting in the center of the concert hall and of course, there were no curtains. There were 15 girls and one guy auditioning. Guess who got the job? To be honest, that guy was the weakest player I have ever heard of a conservatory level. The only explanation we got was-“He’s the guy, he won’t get pregnant”. End of story. Is that physical difference which is preventing women from getting into the orchestras? Or men are scared that women can outbid them? This situation is still present in many orchestras in Russia and some in Europe.