Women in Conducting

A huge topic of discussion today is the disparity between men and women in careers and the workplace. Women on average make around 77¢ for every dollar a man makes in the same career and position. Not only that, but men are often favored when seeking executive positions. Unfortunately, music is no different. There is a huge gap between the amount of male and female conductors and how they are treated in the profession.

When looking at raw numbers, one can see the difference. The following graphs show the difference in the number of conductors of each gender in orchestras across the U.S. The more prestigious the level it seems, the more disparity there is.


It seems that, overall, the treatment of men and women careers is beginning to be more equitable, albeit a slow process. However, in the field of professional conducting, at least in recent years, there is not much improvement. The following graph shows just how little growth there has been in the number of women conducting orchestras.


Further evidence of the patriarchal structure of professional music can be shown in the words and actions of many of the men in the field. Vasily Petrenko, principal conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestras, put his blatant misogyny on display in public comments, “[O]rchestras react better when they have a man in front of them,” going on to say, “a cute girl on the podium means the musicians think of other things.” The examples are not limited to Petrenko’s comments either. It is not unusual for some male concertmasters to refuse to perform under a female conductor.

In addition to this, there has been a wave of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse allegations made against some of the field’s most prominent male conductors. Most prominently is the accusations against former principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, James Levine. The allegations made against Levine led to his resignation from one of the most prestigious positions in music. Levine allegedly used his power as maestro to abuse and harass young musicians. Because Levine was so influential in their careers, the victims felt trapped and hesitated to come forward. As we observe the #metoo movement unfold across the nation and the world, stories like these are far too common. Levine is not the only prominent conductor to be accused of these atrocities; he is joined by Charles Dutoit and fellow Met conductor Joseph Colaneri.

As a music educator, it am disturbed by the behavior of men in the professional realm of music and by the treatment of women in the field. I constantly strive to make music an inclusive and safe environment for my students and it breaks my heart that these things are happening in the musical field. Just like every other field, I and the other men in music must use our privilege in the field to strike down the the misogynistic tendencies of our colleagues and make constant effort to strike down those same tendencies within ourselves.





Achievement Gap in Education

In this post, I want to write about something a little bit more specific to my major. As a music education major, there are many issues in education that I need to grapple with. One of which is the achievement gap between white students and students of color.  When discussing the achievement gap between students of color and white students, there are a variety of issues that will be brought up. The initial response when asked what is causing the achievement gap is often socioeconomic status. On average, people of color are in a lower socioeconomic tier compared to their white counterparts. Students that come from a poor home often have more difficulty in school. Transitively, many students of color will struggle in school as a result. Though this may be the predominant factor in the achievement gap, it does not stop there. Stanford University examined the achievement gap between white students and students of color who came from similar economic backgrounds. Even when in these similar backgrounds, the study found that the achievement gap still existed. This is due to the institutionalized segregation in schools. Though legal segregation has been done away with for decades, there are still mental and physical dividers between students. For example, black students are more isolated in schools than ever before. These predominantly black schools see lower funding and, often consequently, lower test scores. These two factors feed into each other, resulting in a downward spiral in student achievement. At the federal and state levels, not enough is being done to assure that these schools receive proper funding and good, qualified teachers. Teachers also need to make a conscious effort to provide all student with an equitable educational experience. As a music educator, I will make an effort to include all students and provide them with the tools they need to achieve. There is a place for everyone in choir, regardless of their ability, their background, or the color of their skin. There is a distinct need for the representation of all people in every field, music is no exception. I will strive for representation of various ethnicities in repertoire whether it be music of a certain culture or composers of color. It is also important that students of color, and all other students, see people of color striving in the musical field. Providing student with these experiences will help make a step in making education a more inclusive environment. Diversity makes our classrooms better, filled with understanding and acceptance. This inclusion is something all educators must strive for.

How Music Can Help Us Learn About Diversity

When we think of the word music we may think of our favorite song or singer, but in reality, music is much more than we’ll ever be able to fully understand. Music has redefined itself through time and space, and new genres of music are constantly being created along with new ideas being incorporated into contemporary experiences. We have built and broken boundaries in music and the diversity throughout music may just lead us to meaningful and rich life experiences.

We, as humans, are born and raised within our cultural boundaries. Throughout our developmental years we are likely to experience music from within our environments and nothing else. We learn from the people and events around us, and from that our definition of music is created. However, as we grow up and we learn more about different cultures, and technology advanced in the music industry, our knowledge of music has expanded. It has created an extensive amount of musical knowledge, and one’s definition of music is no longer limited to what they knew growing up. With this being said, the more diverse music becomes and the more we experience music from different cultures, the better we are in forming our definition of music.

Although experiencing music from different cultures helps us form a better definition, there is still the basic question of why do we need musical diversity. The response could contain any one or combination of the following: cultural expression as a human right, learning about the world is human nature, what we know about the world form a basis for cultural expression, and cultural expression is part of what we learn. Cultural expression and learning interact with each other and contain the same qualities. Culture expression is part of human nature, is a human right, and they operate within a boundary. Diversity,however, comes from outside of this boundary and leads to more learning, which enriches cultural expression. Diversity also contributes to the same type of cycle in other cultural boundaries which allows them to also enrich their learnings and expression. So although many say music is a universal language, if we look and listen to it while thinking outside the box, we can learn much about the cultures diversity.

Music to Movement, How Music Influenced How We Feel When We Watch TV

Have you ever listened to how other cultures music is different than ours, or even how the background music in a show changes? In movies or TV shows, music sets the mood, feeling, or idea for what is going to happen next or currently happening. Most people will notice the more obvious ones like when something sad happens, suddenly sad violin music comes on, or when something scary is happening and the music switches to loud John Williams type pieces.

In Doctor Who, they play a lot on what is going to happen next with the background music. For example, in the start of the episode “Father’s Day” the music signals to you that Rose narrating about her father is something sad, giving you the idea that something bad may have happened to him, then the narration tells you that he died. If you listen, many times when the TARDIS is starting to move (when the characters are already inside it) the music will start and it will play music that will lead you into the next scene. Again in “Father’s Day,” the music implies a curious tone leading into the scene where Rose is going to see her father so he will not be alone, but when she saves her father the music becomes screechy and loud, indicating that something bad has happened. It changes this way many times throughout that episode.

In the episode “The Empty Child,” for another example, when Rose discovers the child, the music is creepy and dangerous sounding, giving a hint that this may not be a safe situation. The same music comes on when there are interactions with the child later. Then, when Rose meets the officer who saves her and they go out to the top of the ship, the music gives a very stoic feeling to it. However, when the music changes to the homeless children, it changes. The music can indicate class. In the show, using the homeless children in “The Empty Child,” for example, the music changes to a simpler sound and a lower pitch, indicating the lower class or those who are in trouble. The music used to represent Rose in “Rose” was like this until it was shown she was a character that had gained more knowledge. Then her music changed to almost matched the Doctor’s music. It became more curious and fast-paced, along with more complicated rhythm and sound.

I think this is something to look at when watching future episodes. It is very intriguing to listen to and gives a better understanding of the dynamics of the shows.

Every Time I Hear “Tainted Love”

3fa5e0d04859941008a470c8d1c64cfa--friends-show-friends-episodesThere are always those triggers that take us back to a specific moment in time or something completely random. For example, I was in physics class the other day and Dr. Figura was talking about pivots. Can you guess what popped into my head? The scene from FRIENDS where Chandler and Rachel are helping Ross move his couch up to his new apartment. For those of you who are not fans of the television show, the scene consists of Ross saying “pivot, pivot, pivot, PIVOT!” and Chandler replying with “shut up, shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!” Although this post is not about my favorite television show of all time, it’s about an 80’s song and The Doctor.

The 80’s era was full of spunky pop stars and great rock bands. A few of my favorites include Journey, Guns and Roses, AC/DC, Kansas, Cyndi Lauper, and Rick Springfield. Not only do I have favorite bands and artists, but I go through periods where all I listen to is the Pandora station “Best of the 80’s Reloaded”. Needless to say I believe I was born in the wrong era. With that being said it should not be a surprise that I LOVE the song “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell and that when the “last human” played the song on a jukebox I sang along.  Just in case you don’t remember what I am referring to, I will give a brief summary of the scene.

Rose and The Doctor are on a space station that is positioned so aliens can watch the end of the Earth. The head alien of the ship is announcing the arrival of every alien and where they are from. The last alien to be announced is the last human, Cassandra. She is just a flat piece of skin who has minions to moisturize her every couple minutes because I mean who wants to dry out? Anyways, she says she has brought a gift, an iPod which is really a jukebox. The record that is picked to play is “Tainted Love”. Then the camera goes to The Doctor and he has this big grin on his face and is bobbing his head to the beat.


Now you may be thinking at this point how does this have anything to do with the title of this post. Well, earlier this week and today I was listening to my 80’s station on Pandora while doing homework and the song came on. I dropped everything I was doing as images of Doctor Who filled my head. Sadly, this has happened more than just those two times. Do not get me wrong, I like the show. It’s just that these pausing instants come at some inconvenient times and ruin my focus. So, I guess you could say I have a love/hate relationship with the series. Moral of the story is that every time I hear “Tainted Love” I think of The Doctor.

Music and Diversity

The world dreams of having people together without any problems. That would be almost impossible nowadays due to the differences that people have. Those differences are hard to be changed because people come from different cultures. However, there are always alternative solutions for those differences.

One of those differences is languages. It is almost impossible to count the languages around the world. Although many countries have a common language, there are countries that has many languages. India, for example, has over a thousand language. Indians from the north of India find it challenging to communicate with Indians, who live in the south. So it is a hard mission to make the world get together with the language barrier.

However, if the world wants to share a common language, it should think outside the box. Limiting the solution to a common language, like English, would take such a long time to be archived. Thinking outside the box might mean a language that is easily understood without a previous knowledge. One language that is mostly understood by most people is music. People can understand this easy language just by using their common sense. The music can tells people about happiness as well as sadness. It is a very simple solution for such a hard problem the world is facing.

I hope the world one day comes together and enjoy the beauty that music has. I hope that the world one day get together and dance. I hope that the world one day get together and forget about all the differences that people grow up and enjoy this beautiful life. Such a simple solution can make the world a place that welcomes everyone no matter where they come from. That would be a step towards a world that shares joy and love. A world that get people together.