Elliot Moore chosen to lead the Longmont Symphony

Moore will conduct the orchestra’s annual Fourth of July concert.

By Peter Alexander

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) announced last night at their spring pops concert that its board has signed Elliot Moore to a two-year contract as its next music director.

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Elliot Moore, new director of the Longmont Symphony

Moore was selected at the conclusion of a year-long search that included appearances by four candidates with the orchestra. He conducted a concert with the orchestra in November. He will succeed Robert Olson, LSO director for the past 34 years. Olson conducted last night’s concert, titled “A Few of my Favorite Things,” concluding the orchestra’s 50th anniversary season.

Moore, who currently lives in Detroit, has said that he and his wife will move to Longmont by the fall, so that they can become part of the community. For the 2017–18 season, he will conduct all rehearsals and performances. These include six subscription concerts at Longmont’s Vance Brand Auditorium, the holiday candlelight concert and two Nutcracker performances with Boulder Ballet.

Because of the planning involved, it is likely that the 2017–18 season will not be announced until August. In the meantime, Moore will make his first appearance with the orchestra in their annual Fourth of July concert in Thompson Park. In the coming year he will also lead the orchestra’s community engagement concert for St. Vrain Valley School District fifth graders, and two concerts in the Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum.

In a statement released by the Longmont Symphony, board president Robert Pilkey wrote, “The entire LSO family—musicians, board members, and our many volunteers—are thrilled to have Elliot Moore as our new music director. He will play a major role in civic and social activities throughout our community, paying special attention to our youth and the expansion of our community engagement programs. We’re delighted with Elliot’s enthusiastic commitment to continue the legacy of our iconic community orchestra.”

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Elliot Moore. Courtesy of the Longmont Symphony.

As part of a wide ranging conversation, Moore talked extensively about his move to Longmont. “The plan is definitely to become part of the fabric of the Longmont community and to really invest our lives here,” he said. “By being a member of the community, I hope that people will feel free to come up to me and introduce themselves.

“I hope people will stop me when they see me in the grocery store and have a conversation about what’s going on in the town, what’s going on in the community. I hope that my being here in the community will play a role in making the symphony an even more integral part of the Longmont community.”

Moore said he is looking forward to taking a role he described as the “full-time steward” of the Longmont Symphony. “I have various ideas about how an orchestra can really impact the community, how a symphony is a symbol of the community,” he said. “How players listen and respond to one another is symbolic of what a community does.

“One thing about a vision is not coming in with a preconceived idea, but communicating to community leaders, asking them questions, asking the orchestra questions, and asking the board members questions about their vision—where they would like to see the orchestra go in the next several years. So while I do come in with various ideas, I also want to make sure that what we do is authentic for Longmont.”

Moore is especially interested in the educational activities that the LSO offers. “One of the things that I am very excited about is the 5th-grade concerts that we have in January,” he said. “I want to have a further reach into education. One of the ideas I would love to do is to teach people who don’t have much knowledge about conducting—or even about music—what a conductor actually does.”

Moore has several engagements for the coming year outside Colorado. This is normal for any conductor of a less than full-time orchestra, in order to supplement his income, but Moore made it clear that the LSO will remain his top priority. “The rehearsal schedule and the concert schedule leave room for guest conducting with other orchestras,” he observed.

Moore was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and lived briefly in Denver when he was six years old. He has also lived in Texas, Cleveland, New York and Switzerland, as well as Detroit. He studied at the University of Michigan, where he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree. He has been conductor of the Blue Period Ensemble in New York and the Detroit Medical Orchestra. In 2015 he also became director the Michigan’s Five Lakes Silver Band.

He has led rehearsals and/or performances with Mexico’s Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco, Canadian Chamber Opera of New York City, Sewanee Symphony Orchestra and Canada’s National Arts Center Orchestra, as part of its Summer Music Institute Conductors Program. After completing his doctoral work at the University of Michigan, Moore was invited back to lead programs of the University Philharmonia Orchestra and the Contemporary Directions Ensemble.

Seicento Baroque Ensemble appoints new artistic director

Kevin T. Padworski will succeed founding director Evanne Browne

By Peter Alexander

Seicento Baroque Ensemble, a Boulder-based choral organization specializing in the music of the early Baroque period, has appointed composer/conductor/organist Kevin T. Padworski to succeed Evanne Browne as artistic director.

At the same time Amanda Balestrieri, a soprano who is well known for her early music performances, has been selected as assistant conductor of the group.

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Kevin T. Padworski has been appointed artistic director of Seicento

Browne founded Seicento in 2011 with the goal of “performing worthy but rarely heard music of the early Baroque musical period,” their Web page states. Under Browne’s leadership the auditioned choir has employed historically informed performance practice and period instruments in their performances.

In a statement released by Seicento, Browne praised the choice of Padworski as artistic director, saying, “Seicento is honored to have a musician of this caliber lead our group into the future.”

“Evanne clearly has kind of established a little bit of a legacy here in Colorado,” Padworski says. “I’m following an incredible woman in her field, and I’m excited to work on the repertoire. I’m excited about being able to perform Baroque repertoire up to historically informed performance practice.”

The transition has been made easier by planning that already taken place for the 2017­–18 season. Themes have been selected for two concerts during the year. “The fall theme will be ‘Luther to Bach,’ and that can mean a whole bunch of things,” Padworski says. “That’s really exciting because Luther’s influence was widespread in Europe, so that leaves a lot of composers available to explore.

“Then in the spring they had established a theme called ‘Mad Madrigals.’ It gives us a breadth of madrigal repertoire from a couple of centuries. As I look at that, my initial reaction would be to try to make that as broad as possible.

“I see it as a privilege to work with and collaborate with the people in the ensemble, and to offer music to greater Boulder.”

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Amanda Balestrieri will be assistant conductor of Seicento

Balestrieri has been a frequent soloist with Seicento, most recently for Browne’s last performances with the group March 24–26. She worked closely with Browne and the ensemble over the past six years, and has also appeared with the Boulder Bach Festival, Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra, and other performing organizations in Colorado.

“I think it’s going to be a really good collaboration,” she says of her role working with Padworski as assistant conductor. “Kevin’s skills are huge. He’s a singer and a conductor and a keyboard player, and he has energy and wonderful musicianship. What I bring is how to technically execute some of the more difficult parts of the early music style, and a much longer experience in the early music movement.”

Padworski is a doctoral student in choral conducting at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is artistic director of the Colorado Chorale and director of music and organist at Calvary Baptist Church in Denver. He is the composer of both choral and instrumental works, available through MusicSpoke and Santa Barbara Music Publishing.

He performs as an organist, singer, pianist and harpsichordist with an interest in early music. He has appeared professionally with the Jubilate Deo Chorale and Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Colorado Choral Arts Society, Colorado Symphony, Colorado Symphony Chorus, Colorado Children’s Chorale, Opera Colorado and American Baptist Churches USA, among other organizations.

Padworski holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Eastern University, a certificate in leadership from the Foundations program at Duke Divinity School, and a master’s degree in conducting from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.  He has been a conducting fellow with the Sarteano Chamber Choral Workshop and with Chorus America.

Protest precedes Boulder Chamber Orchestra performance

Corporate contribution attracts activists’ attention

By Peter Alexander

They started blowing their whistles about three minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin.

Last night (May 5) was one the biggest nights in the history of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO). Just before 7:30 p.m., the players were all on the Macky Auditorium stage, along with members of the Boulder Chorale, getting ready to perform Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony.

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Artistic director Bahman Saless and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra

It would be the climactic concert of their 13th season. The house was filling with a large audience.

Suddenly, several protesters—I saw three but it sounded like there were more—stood up and started blowing police whistles. The audience suddenly grew quiet. A woman near me stood up and started shouting, although her words were lost in the general din. Loud voices could be heard from other parts of the hall.

The woman hurried down the aisle, still blowing her whistle and talking to several audience members on the way. A man near the back was shouting, and raised a fist in protest; I saw one or two others rushing out of the auditorium. They made a quick exit from the building, leaving behind flyers headed “Community Alert.”

The protestors were from East Boulder County United (EBCU), an activist group that opposes fracking. The group’s Facebook page lists as one of its goals “to protect our community and neighbors from the dangers that oil and gas development poses to our health, the quality of our air and water, and our agricultural heritage.”

They had already stated their opposition to contributions the BCO received from Extraction Oil & Gas, which describes itself as “a domestic energy company focusing on the exploration and production of oil and gas reserves in the Rocky Mountains.” It is likely that EBCU alerted some of the media of the planned protest against Extraction, since the Boulder Daily Camera had a reporter and photographer at Macky before the performance.

As soon as the EBCU protesters had left the building, the concert continued as planned. Board chair Jessica Catlin spoke briefly from the stage, acknowledging the BCO’s supporters. Conductor Bahman Saless came onstage and talked about the program, as he often does. The performance took place without further incident.

There was no evidence that the musicians were rattled in any way. Their ardent performance received a boisterous standing ovation. With people on the main floor and in the balcony, this was likely the largest audience the BCO has played before.

After the performance, BCO board member Ari Rubin said that the board and orchestra had received no notice or threat of the protest. “It saddens me that they would choose to use this as an outlet rather than contact their elected officials,” he said.

The trouble between EBCU and the orchestra began about April 30, when the BCO posted a notice on their Facebook page that a gift from Extraction Oil & Gas would help pay the cost of free student tickets to the performance. EBCU responded with a message to supporters, asking them to “Please contact the Boulder Chamber Orchestra and call on them to end their partnership with Extraction Oil and Gas. . . . We are calling upon (the BCO) to immediately return all money you have taken from this lethal corporation and remove all promotion of them from your publications. Make music, not pollution.”

EBCU also posted protests on the BCO Facebook page. Those posts were taken down, and the BCO board issued a statement that read in part: “Organizations like ours have increasingly been forced to look towards private donations and corporations to help fund our mission to educate and expand the cultural fabric of our city. . . .Donations are necessary [for us] to survive and thrive as a nonprofit.”

The donations from Extraction was one of three gifts that provided free tickets to the performance for students from Boulder Valley School District, Jefferson County School District, and St. Vrain Valley School District. The University of Colorado, Boulder, and Excel Energy also contributed to this initiative. According to the board statement of May 2, “Students have responded eagerly to our offer, and we must honor our commitment to them.

“We understand corporate donations may present difficult and controversial issues, but we viewed the acceptance of funds as way of ensuring that some good can come from otherwise divisive issues surrounding corporate stewardship.”

Extraction Oil & Gas is one of 15 sponsors listed on the BCO Web page. Total corporate contributions, including Extraction and other local businesses, are reported as 17% of the BCO’s budget.

Regarding the larger controversy that ECBU has generated, Saless  and the BCO’s acting managing director, Nell Clothier, have declined to comment. Members of board have indicated that they prefer for the board’s written statement, posted May 2, to speak for itself.

UPDATE: According to a report published in the Boulder Daily Camera, EBCU member Kristin McLean said that there were seven activists who blew whistles in Macky Auditorium before the performance. She was also quoted saying that the group had paid $562 for their tickets to get into the auditorium.

 

Boulder Chamber Orchestra returns to basics for 14th season

Concertos familiar and unfamiliar will decorate the 2017–18 season

By Peter Alexander

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra: Fourteeners all year for 2017–18

Conductor Bahman Saless is calling next year’s season of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra (BCO) “Fourteeners,” because it is their 14th season, but there are no massive summits on the horizon.

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Bahman Saless returns to basics

“If there were going to be a theme it would be going back to our basics,” he says of the season’s program. “We have kind of stretched ourselves for a year or two, to get us to some benchmarks, and now we can go back to our more intimate chamber orchestra concerts.”

The search for benchmarks has led Saless and the BCO into Romantic territory, with concertos and symphonies by Brahms, and this season’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (coming May 5, 6 and 7). But the 2017–18 season stays mostly in the classical period, which is the core repertoire for smaller orchestras, including two symphonies by Mozart and one each by Haydn and Schubert.

Along with chamber orchestra basics, the season will be decorated by concertos, some of them familiar and some virtually unknown. Undoubtedly the least familiar will be on the December concert, when the orchestra’s principal flutist, Cobus du Toit, will be featured in the Pastorale Suite for flute and strings by Swedish composer Gunnar de Frumerie.

It’s a piece that Saless literally found on a beach in Mexico.

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Cobus du Toit: Playing music from a Mexican beach

“Cobus has been bugging me for a concerto to do with him for a while, and I love showing him off,” he says. “I was in Mexico by the beach and I heard this on my phone, and I’m like, ‘I’ve never heard this before! I’ve got to do this!’

“I really don’t know anything about the composer. The piece is unknown enough that even Cobus had to look it up!”

Another unfamiliar solo work will be the Concerto for piano, violin and strings by Mendelssohn, written when the composer was 14 years old, and unpublished in his lifetime. It will be performed in November by pianist Mina Gajic and violinist Zachary Carrettin.

Filling out the roster of little known concertos will be the Piano Concerto No. 3 in B minor by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, a contemporary of Beethoven who succeeded Haydn as Kapellmeister to the Hungarian Prince Esterhazy. Known principally as a piano virtuoso, Hummel wrote eight concertos for his own use of which, Sales says, the Third is “really hard to do.” It will be performed in February by Andrew Staupe.

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Soprano Christie Conover

Beethoven will provide another rarity for the February concert, the complete incidental music for the play Egmont by Goethe. The Overture is a common concert opener, but the full incidental music, including songs that will be sung by soprano Christie Conover, is not often heard.

Well known solo works on the season schedule are Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, played by Sharon Park and Andrew Krimm; and the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra by Joaquín Rodrigo, performed by Chaconne Klaverenga. The season wraps up in May with a concert that will feature four members of the BCO in Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante for oboe, bassoon, violin and cello.

Tickets for the 2017–18 season will go on sale through the BCO Web page May 5. The full season schedule and programs are listed below.

# # # # #

October 20, 21
Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major, K364 for violin and viola
—Sharon Park, violin, and Andrew Krimm, viola
Mozart: Symphony No 29 in A major, K201
Elgar: String Serenade

November  10, 11
Mendelssohn: Concerto for piano, violin and strings
—Mina Gajic, piano, and Zachary Carrettin, violin
Janacek: Idyll for strings

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Chaconne Klaverenga

December 15, 16
Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra
—Chaconne Klaverenga, guitar
Gunnar de Frumerie: Pastorale Suite For Flute and Strings, op. 13
—Cobus du Toit, flute
Schubert Symphony No. 5 in D major, D485

February 23, 24
Hummel: Piano Concerto No. 3 in B minor
—Andrew Staupe, piano
Beethoven: Overture and Incidental Music to Egmont
—Christie Conover, soprano

March 30, 31
Mozart: Requiem in D minor, K626
—Boulder Chorale
—Soloists TBD

May  11,12
Haydn: Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat major for oboe, bassoon, violin and cello
—Soloists from the orchestra
Haydn: Symphony No. 95 in C minor
Mozart: Symphony No. 36 in C major, K 425 (Linz)

 

 

CMF & CMA announce $1 million fundraising initiative

“Campaign for our Future” starts its public phase with $700,000 in hand

By Peter Alexander

The Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts have announced a new fundraising initiative, Campaign for our Future, in coordination with the CMF’s 40th anniversary.

With a total goal of $1 million, campaign co-chairs Jack Walker and TK Smith have announced that before the beginning of the pubic phase of the campaign, they already have in excess of $700,000 from more than 70 individual gifts. While it is normal for fundraising efforts to secure major “leadership gifts” before making a public announcement of a goal, 70% is an extraordinarily large portion to have in hand this early in the process.

“I think we surprised ourselves with our efficiency,” CMF/CMA executive director Elizabeth McGuire says.

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Chautauqua Auditorium, home of the summer Colorado Music Festival

Two individual gifts were particularly significant in reaching the $700,000 milestone: $250,000 from the Glenn Korff Foundation in memory of long-time CMF supporter Glenn Korff, and $90,000 from the SeiSolo Foundation in memory of Hans and Dolores Thurnauer, which will support performances and special projects by guest artists. In another significant initiative, there was a $100,000 crowd-funded gift in appreciation of past president and board member Caryl Kassoy, who founded the CMF Young People’s Concert.

McGuire has been with the CMF/CMA for less than a year, but that time has seen real progress in securing the financial stability of the organization. “Some of the elements (of the Campaign for our Future) existed before I came on board,” she says. “It was an offshoot of the strategic plan that was developed before my time.”

She said it was CMF/CMA director of development and community partnerships Melissa Fathman who designed the campaign, which was then launched by the CMF/CMA board in October.

Although there have been rumors in Boulder of the CMF/CMA’s financial concerns, McGuire stresses that the organization is currently debt-free. ”The donations to this campaign are not going toward any debt repayment or recovery,” she says. “They are specifically for initiatives outlined in our strategic plan.”

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Orchestral excellence is one of the goals supported by the campaign

Those initiatives are divided into four categories: education, orchestral excellence, innovation and sustainability. Of the four, McGuire singled out sustainability as particularly important. “That speaks to the organization’s future,” she says. “We wanted to create a cash buffer for the organization, so that we can withstand unforeseen or un-controllable circumstances.”

The current political climate in Washington, D.C., may be creating an immediate need. “We’ve written grants to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and received them for many years,” she says. “We applied in 2016 and received a letter from the NEA that said, ‘We don’t know that we can award grants. The future of the NEA is uncertain, so please be patient.’”

In addition to the early success of the Campaign for our Future, McGuire says “there are many other positive things that have been happening. We’ve had a substantial uptick in the amount of grants that we’ve not only applied for but that we’ve received in the past year—and I give Melissa (Fathman) credit for this.

“And I would say too, our sales for the festival are 30% greater than they were at this time last year. So there are a lot of things that contribute to rebuilding (the financial stability of CMF/CMA).”

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You can learn more and make a contribution to the CMF/CMA Campaign for our Future and their “Support Us” Web page.

 

 

Changing of the guard at the Dairy

James Bailey, who transformed the Dairy Arts Center’s musical program, steps aside

By Peter Alexander

James Bailey, the music curator who has transformed the musical offerings at Boulder’s Dairy Arts Center, has stepped down from his position, effective May 1.

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Dairy Arts Center

He will be replaced in the position by Sharon Park, a violinist and music administrator who has worked for and played in several of Boulder’s classical music organizations, including the Colorado Music Festival, the Boulder Bach Festival, the Boulder Philharmonic and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra. Park is a graduate of the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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James Bailey, outgoing curator of music for the Dairy Arts Center

After about two and a half years in the position, Bailey said he made the decision to step down just this year. “Over a period of weeks I got the feeling, ‘maybe it’s time for me to retire from this’, and open myself up to whatever happens next,” he says. “When I started looking at what’s involved with music at the Dairy, I realized that now is the time to do it, and to walk away and let that happen as it may.”

He has no specific career plans after leaving the Dairy. “It’s  business as usual for me into June,” he says. “I’ve got a couple of trips I’m taking. I probably won’t settle into ‘What am I going to do next?’ until mid-August.”

Speaking of his successor, Bailey says “I have complete confidence in Sharon. I know her as a musician and as an administrator, so I knew that she would be perfect for the job. I’m very glad she was available.”

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Sharon Park, new curator of music for the Dairy

“Its a huge honor to follow in Jim’s footsteps and carry on the platform he’s already created,” Park says. “Jim has been integral not only to music at the Dairy but in general in our community. I’m excited to carry on that platform that Jim has so wonderfully created for the past couple of years.

“One of the special things about the Dairy is that it really does break down the barriers of the traditional concert hall.”

In his time as music curator, Bailey took the Dairy from having almost no serious musical program to one of the most interesting and creative venues in Boulder, in part by focusing on things off the beaten path that no one else was doing. These have included world music, work by local composers, the combination of music and film, live music with dance, and jazz performed in a pure listening environment.

“I was very fortunate to meet Bill Obermeier (executive director of the Dairy Center) when I did,” he says. “We hit it off, we had the same vision, and we created it. We’ve gone from nothing to where we produce about 22 concerts a year.”

That same period has seen the renovation of the Diary, which now has a well designed entrance that provides about the best lobby space of any performance venue in Boulder.

Both Bailey and Park said that the current series at the Dairy—Soundscape, One Night Only, and Jazz at the Dairy—will continue for at least the coming year. But there are also some new developments planned as well.

“We’re starting a brand new series, which will be very exciting, called CU at the Dairy,” Bailey says. “This will involve faculty and graduate students from the University of Colorado.

“We have a new grand piano [a recent gift to the Dairy from the Louis and Elizabeth Tenenbaum Memorial Fund], and we have new sound equipment. And what won’t be noticed by the audiences is starting in late December we’re going to completely renovate the backstage area. The performers will be very happy about that!”

Park hints that there may be still more innovations to come. “Stay tuned!” she says. “There’s a lot of exciting things in the pipeline.”

Women in Classical Music: Some Good News, Some Bad News

“Blind” orchestral auditions have leveled the playing field.

By Peter Alexander

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Missy Mazzoli was composer in residence with the Boulder Philharmonic in 2016

Sometimes a cliché is true.

For example, for women entering the field of classical music, there’s some good news and some bad news. Depending on the career goals, the prospects can be good, mixed, or troubled.

In a year when women’s status in society is daily in the news, this is a timely subject. For the purposes of this article, I will look at the orchestral scene, the most visible part of the classical music world and one where numbers are easily available.

First the good news: professional orchestras are filled with women today, a vast contrast to 40 or 50 years ago when orchestras were almost entirely male. This is now a viable career for the most talented women instrumentalists.

The bad news is that the picture is not nearly as rosy for women composers, who are not well represented on orchestral programs. And women conductors are no better off than composers.

The growing numbers of women in professional orchestras at every level can be traced to a single innovation that began around 1970: “blind auditions,” where competing candidates for open orchestral jobs play behind a screen. The selection committee does not know if it is hearing a man or a woman. The rapid change in the makeup of orchestras since 1970—casually visible and backed up by the numbers—is compelling evidence of the opposition women orchestral players faced before that innovation.

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Susan Slaughter

Susan Slaughter, the first female principal trumpet player in the U.S. was interviewed in 2009 when she retired after 40 years in the St. Louis Symphony. In the article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, she recalled that orchestras were not interested—until they heard her play. She wrote to 30 orchestras when she was starting out, and was invited to three auditions.

When she auditioned for St. Louis, one string player on the committee later admitted that he actually got up to go get coffee when she walked onstage. “He waited to hear a few notes, just for form’s sake,” the article said. “He said, ‘Your playing made me sit back down.’”

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra Member Portraits Day 9

Elizabeth Baker

Violinist Elizabeth Baker, a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 1987, has experienced auditions from both sides of the screen. She does not doubt the importance of blind auditions. “The screened rounds were the main reason why women were able to advance and realize positions in major symphony orchestras,” she says.

She has seen this in her own family. Her mother, Virginia Voigtlander Baker, was one of the first women in a principal string position in an American orchestra. She was engaged as assistant concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony in 1972, shortly after the introduction of screened auditions, and held the position until 1993.

Baker’s belief is supported by scientific research. In an article titled “Orchestrating Impartiality,” published in 2000 in The American Economic Review, researchers Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse concluded that “the screen increases—by 50 percent—the probability that a woman will be advanced from certain preliminary rounds and increases by severalfold the likelihood that a woman will be selected in the final round.” Their conclusion is backed up by 25 pages of charts, graphs and statistical studies.

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A violinist prepares to play an audition behind the screen.

The numbers are striking. According to the most recent information from the League of American Orchestras, the percentage of women instrumentalists has gone from 38.2% in 1978, the earliest year that these records were kept and already after the first screened auditions, to nearly 50% today. Some individual orchestras have up to 60% women.

The numbers are similar locally. Based on the rosters on their Web pages, approximately 44% of the Colorado Symphony and 58% of the Boulder Philharmonic is female. Significantly, the concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony is a woman, as are the assistant concertmaster and several principal players in the wind sections of the Boulder Phil.

The numbers were much lower before screened auditions were introduced. In the 1950s and ‘60s, orchestras were considered a male preserve. Older women instrumentalists often recall being explicitly told to get a college degree so they could teach, because “orchestra jobs are for men.”

Today blind auditions are just about universal in American orchestras. The Code of Ethical Audition Practices that professional orchestras follow does not specify screened auditions, although it does prohibit discrimination of the basis of sex, and they often are required in union contracts between orchestras and musicians.

# # # # #

Individual women composers have seen some well publicized successes recently. In December the Metropolitan Opera produced L’Amour de Loin by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho to great acclaim—the first opera by a woman at the Met in 113 years. The Santa Fe Opera premiered Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain in 2015, and Opera Colorado premiered Lori Laitman’s Scarlet Letter in 2016. But while such widely publicized events may open doors for other women, they do not tell the whole story.

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Jennifer Higdon’s “Cold Mountain” was premiered at the Santa Fe Opera in 2015

For one thing, composers do not have the advantage of auditioning anonymously. Music directors and board committees know whose music they are choosing. “We’re completely at the mercy of the people who do the programming,” Higdon explains. “We have no control over our careers, basically, especially in the orchestral realm.”

A highly successful composer by any standard, Higdon is an exception, a Pulitzer prize winner with more than 200 performances every year. But that does not mean she has not met casual sexism in her career. People still tell her “I can’t believe a woman wrote that piece!” and she was even asked by a documentary filmmaker once if he could get a shot of her ironing.

“I was like, ‘What? Did I hear that correctly?’” she recalls.

Missy Mazzoli, a 2016 composer in residence with the Boulder Philharmonic, points out that women composers often cannot know when discrimination occurs. “It operates on different levels, a lot of which I would be the last person to be aware of,” she says. “I’m not behind closed doors where people are making decisions, but I think the numbers speak for themselves.”

What the numbers say depends on which ones do the speaking. In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, the period that still forms the largest part of the classical repertoire, women were discouraged, when not actually prevented, from being composers. That is no longer the case, so while there is little music by women from the core of the classical repertoire, there is a great deal of newer music by women.

Statistics kept by the Baltimore Symphony reflect that discrepancy. They show that only 1.8% of all works performed by major orchestras in 2014–15 were by women. But when limited to works performed by living composers, that number jumped to 14.8%.

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Boulder native Kristin Kuster

Still, that remains a smaller share of the repertoire than the growing numbers of women composers would suggest. Kristin Kuster, a composer from Boulder who teaches at the University of Michigan, reacted when the figures were first released, writing, “These numbers are both abysmal and embarrassing, particularly in this day and age.”

She knows first-hand how many women are moving into composition. “We are seeing a gradual increase in the number of female composers applying to our undergraduate and graduate programs” at Michigan, she says today. And at last summer’s “Composing in the Wilderness” workshop in Alaska (covered in Boulder Weekly in October), open registration attracted five women and four men.

Local figures hover around the national averages. In the 11 seasons under conductor Michael Butterman (including the current season), the Boulder Philharmonic has played six pieces by six different female composers. That is approximately 3.2% of all the repertoire programmed on major concert performances, slightly above the 2014–15 single-season national average . Among living composers, it is 15%, almost exactly the national average.

That is a stark difference from the orchestra’s early years. In all of the recorded repertoire before Butterman, back to 1966, the percentage of women composers on concert programs was exactly 0—unless you count the 1995 “performance” of “Happy Birthday” by Mildred and Patty Hall.

For the Colorado Music Festival, it is more difficult to calculate percentages, because there are so many different genres and ways of listing programs. What can be gleaned from the records is that in the first 20 years of the festival, through 1996, there were seven works played by women—six of them by Betsy Jolas, who is also part of the upcoming 40th anniversary season.

More recently, Michael Christie’s 13 years with the festival featured nine works by seven women. Looking only at Festival Orchestra concerts that have full program listings in the record, three women make up 1.3% of all composers and 9.4% of living composers in the Christie era, below the national averages. For the CMF Chamber Orchestra in the same period, however, the figures are slightly above the national average: five women represent 2.5% and 17.9% respectively.

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“Click” Commission winner Hannah Lash

Since Christie left, the only works by women were Hannah Lash’s “Click” Commission winner in 2016, and the upcoming piece by Jolas.

The “Click” Commission choice is particularly interesting. The commission has been granted in five festival seasons between 2011 and ’17. The winners of the commission are selected by the public, who vote with their pocketbooks by making contributions.

In those five years, there have been 14 men and three women candidates. Of these, the voters selected three men and two women—Kuster in 2013 and Lash in 2016. This is a far higher rate than women have been programmed locally or nationally. Since there were two women candidates in 2013, voters have actually chosen a female composer every time one was available. This is a very small sample, but it suggests that, at least in Boulder, audiences are more willing than program committees and music directors to choose female composers.

This adds up to a mixed picture for female composers: progress, but well short of representation in proportion to the numbers of active composers. For her part, Kuster calls on everyone to be part of the solution. “We all have a responsibility to change our culture to be more inclusive, and to represent the reality that there is a vast diversity of musical voices to be heard,” she says.

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The most prominent musicians at orchestral concerts are the soloists and conductors. For soloists, the rise of women in orchestral positions has been paralleled by women with solo careers, particularly violinists. The rosters of three of the largest artists management companies in New York—Columbia Artists, IMG and Opus 3—together list 37 violinists, of which 16, or 43.2%, are women. Female pianists fare less well, with 13 out of 59, or 22%.

But it is as conductors that women appear least successful. In this area, management rosters may slightly underrepresent women. The management companies represent 153 conductors and only 11 women, or 7.2% of the total, whereas the numbers of women in actual orchestral conducting positions are slightly higher.

The League of American Orchestras reports that among all conductors at league orchestras—including both music directors and assistants—14.6% are women, almost exactly the same rate at which women are included in orchestral programs. At the highest level, 9.2% of all music directors of LAO orchestras are women. However, the discouraging fact is that both numbers have changed very little over the past 10 years of league records, and throughout the same period there has been only one female music director in the top 24 U.S. orchestras by budget, Marin Alsop at the Baltimore Symphony.

Whatever numbers you look at, women are underrepresented at the top levels of the orchestral world. When asked about this, women refer over and over again to the same issues that face women in leadership positions in business and other fields: it is more difficult for women to be taken seriously as strong leaders.

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JoAnn Falletta

JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Symphony and one of the senior women conductors today, explains it this way: “Probably the greatest factor is that [symphony] boards are run by people who believe very strongly in the status quo. And that means board members trusted generally in an older man, and I think that has lasted for decades.”

Beverly Everett, music director in Bismarck, N.D., and Bemidji, Minn., is well accepted in both communities, but says that in many cases boards’ “perception of leadership is someone who can go out and be buddy-buddy with someone on a golf course.” One position that she considered, she recalls, “I had a friend who knew some of the people on the board, and they told him flat out that they would not consider a woman.”

Laura Jackson, music director of the Reno Philharmonic, says the perception of a conductor is often even more narrow than that, of an older European male—a long-term prejudice in the U.S. that can hamper younger men as well as women. “The average person has in their mind a Toscanini, sort of an Einstein-looking character,” she says. “The young male conductors suffer from the stereotype as much as I do.”

Laura Jackson conducting

Laura Jackson

The good news is that it is not usually the musicians in the orchestra who have a problem with women conductors. “Most people just want somebody competent on the podium, period,” Jackson says. “If you’re an iguana and you do what you do well, they’ll take it.”

She has seen more concern about the gender of the conductor from the public than from musicians. When she was a conducting fellow at Tanglewood, Mass., she says, “It was the patrons who said, ‘Do you realize how long it’s been since we had a female here? This is really freaky!’”

That perception in turn puts extra pressure on women conductors, who may be seen as representing all women. “It was scary because I felt like one false move, if anything was wrong, it would end up being blamed on my gender,” Jackson says.

Another challenge that is familiar to all women in all fields is the difficulty of being assertive—which goes against society’s expectations of girls and women. For example, Falletta had to learn at the outset not to be apologetic. “There can be a subtle sense of apology in what women say,” she says.

Jorge Mester, a conductor who was Falletta’s teacher and mentor when she was younger, puts it more bluntly. “It’s the teaching that little girls are given about being subservient,” he explains. “I said to her, ‘JoAnn, do you want to be a nice Catholic girl, or do you want to be a conductor?’”

In other words, women have to step outside the traditional social role to exert leadership—but if they are too assertive they run the risk of being perceived as shrill, or worse. “The most difficult thing is figuring out the window of leadership where you can be commanding and make a point passionately without being seen as angry, where you can be not seen as brittle and mean,” Jackson says.

Another challenge familiar to women in business is dress. “For any performer male or female, the way you look is very important,” Jackson says. “With a woman there are many extra layers to getting that right. If a man walks in and his shirt is a little wrinkled, he’s a disheveled genius. If a woman looks like that, she’s incompetent.”

“Concert dress is something men may not even think about,” Falletta adds. “With a woman, it seems to be more laden with social importance.”

Women like Falletta and Jackson and Everett have shown that women can be successful orchestral conductors. But is that career path one that is becoming more open to women generally? The evidence is mixed. As noted, the numbers recorded by the League of American Orchestras have been static for at least ten years. And individual experience varies widely.

Photography by Glenn Ross. http://on.fb.me/16KNsgK

Cynthia Katsarelis

Cynthia Katsarelis, conductor of the Colorado Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, is the only female orchestral conductor in the front range area. “When I was at the Peabody Conservatory, the conducting class was 50-50, male-female, all talented,” she observes. “At each new level of my career, there were fewer women. In top masterclasses and summer programs there would be fewer women. I would be the only woman at several professional auditions and now there are many music director searches where no women are auditioned.”

As it happens, that has been exactly the case in the most recent high-profile searches in this area.

In 2010, the Colorado Symphony had eight guest conductors, all European males, and hired Andrew Litton from that field. Six years later, Brett Mitchell was hired to replace Litton, without any other candidates appearing with the orchestra. Around the same time, two other men were hired in conducting positions, Associate Conductor Christopher Dragan and Assistant Conductor Andres Lopera.

In 2014, the Colorado Music Festival featured four official candidates to replace Michael Christie, all male. The two or three other names that were informally discussed were also male. The Longmont Symphony is currently searching for a new conductor, and once again all the finalists are male.

That’s the local picture, but it may not be broadly representative. Jackson believes more women are coming into the field. “In the past three years it’s like the floodgates are opening,” she says. “I think we are on the cusp. I think that I have probably done my last music director audition where I am the only woman.”

She sees some situations where being a woman may even be an advantage. “For an orchestra that needs a big change, when they see your résumé and see your picture, you are automatically that change, that clean slate,” she says. “That can put you in a category where people will ask, ‘Why not?’

“I think it’s going to be less and less of an issue.”

Falletta believes that the publicity around some recent high-profile women conductors helps. The Finnish conductor

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Susanna Malkki conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in 2016

Susanna Malkki, chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic who also who led Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin at the Metropolitan Opera is one example. Another is Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, new music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony in England. In 2013, Alsop became the first woman to conduct the BBC’s “Last Night of the Proms” in London.

“Once it’s happened on a high level, people are more open to it,” Falletta says. “All of us  tend to look to orchestras that are bigger than us as models. As they start to have more women on the podium—and more women composers, as well—I think smaller orchestras will do the same.”

At least the way is now open for women to learn the skills as conductors. University and conservatory programs are accepting women, and the Dallas Opera has made a 20-year commitment to its Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors. The League of American Orchestras has held special programs for women conductors, as did the Lucerne Festival in 2016.

In the end, it all comes down to fairness, and the opportunity of talented women to pursue the career of their choice. But Higdon has her own perspective on the whole issue, that opening doors to women is good for classical music generally.

“Young people don’t come to classical concerts because it looks so un-hip,” she says. “One reason is because there are so few women represented. They are used to women being part of the scene from popular music and hip-hop and everything else they listen to.

“If you want to be more hip and appeal to younger audiences, program more women!”

NOTE: An abridged version of this story appeared in Boulder Weekly.

Edited lightly to correct typos and clarify the numbers that are provided, 4/13.