Simply put, Marin Alsop has inspired me.
Not to follow some long suppressed dream of becoming a conductor, but something more than that; to pursue my goals no matter what the odds. Because the odds were most definitely not in Alsop’s favour. Little over a month ago, Marin Alsop made history by becoming the first woman to conduct the orchestra at the last night of the Proms across the 118 year history of the event. Evidently moved by the occasion, Alsop’s closing speech made evident her disbelief that in 2013 there could still be firsts for women whilst also drawing attention to how women in the classical music sector are having to fight as hard as ever before to gain equality with their male counterparts.
There are countless articles about how far society has come in regards to gender equality but this increasingly appears to be in relation to the sexist regimes of other countries or the patriarchal societies of old; over the past five years it is debatable whether there has been any substantial advancement towards the ever elusive goal that is gender equality within Britain. These articles would instead appear to be ideologically driven attempts by the government to cloud women’s judgement about just how much further there still is to go and engrain in them a sense that the new definition of equality is ‘partial equality’.
In terms of Alsop, we can only hope that this is just the start of gender equality within the classical music sector which has been notoriously male dominated since its very beginnings. Regardless of the discouraging statistics, a female conductor at the Proms could finally mark the beginning of changing perceptions within this industry. Gender inequality in classical music dates back almost
as far as the music itself (unsurprising given the patriarchal nature of life during the times that Bach and Handel were composing). However, as we move through time it is still a wealth of male names that spring to mind when asked to think of modern composers and conductors alike, leading to questions such as how this industry has remained so behind the times to be brought forward into the limelight. In the times of economic instability following the recession, the arts are continuously striving to make themselves appear accessible to all making it just as important that the opportunities to engage creatively within their production and management is equal to all.
Yes, Alsop’s achievement is a milestone for the industry but, whilst a cause for celebration, is evidently due to her hard work, perseverance and refusal to allow the prejudices of others to stop her from achieving her goals. Unfortunately, the sceptical part of me can’t help but feel that her debut may have been somewhat of a ‘box-tick’; the counter argument for any future criticisms of sexism within the industry. For the sake of women worldwide striving to make their mark within this field we can only hope that this is not the case.
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