Monday, December 01, 2008

Marin Alsop

She is the Principal Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as well as its music director. She was named the 2008 Conductor of the Year by Musical America, an industry publication.

One of those path breaker types. There are not many women among internationally known conductors, even if we are allowed to count the dead ones, and that scarcity tends to perpetuate itself in an odd way. Just think about a young girl who has managed to figure out that she'd like to be a conductor and is pretty talented. Her next step is to make her family supportive of her dreams and the step after that is to make her teachers supportive of those dreams and so on.

If she doesn't have many female role models in her dream profession, all that persuasion is made more difficult. Adults might gently persuade her to look for a career that is easier for women, because they know how hard it is to be the First Woman in any new field, how that First Woman must possess a platinum spine and the skin of a porcupine, combined with the determination of a bamboo shoot drilling through the asphalt (this happens somewhere right now, by the way, that bamboo business).

As most people (even brilliantly talented ones) don't want to live like porcupines drilling through the asphalt those Firsts are quite rare. Once they are in place, however, the path has been marked out and others can try to walk it with just a little less trouble. The snag is that the First Woman doesn't usually get rewarded for having broken that path for the rest of us.

Jeez. I was trying to write one of those happy and optimistic pieces, celebrating the achievements of women and the way society now is much better than the society of fifty years ago. Let's try again:

I celebrate Marin Alsop's determination, her desire to bring music to more people and her willingness to mentor young conductors. I celebrate her talents and hard work, and I look forward to a time when women conductors are dime a dozen.