Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gender gap in U.S. orchestras

Composer and music blogger Suby Raman surveys gender representation in the 20 largest U.S. symphony orchestras, finding that women form a minority of less than 40 percent in 15 of the ensembles. Only one of the 20, the St. Louis Symphony, has a majority of female musicians:

The Richmond Symphony (not in Raman’s survey) has 29 women on its 2014-15 roster of 65 musicians (not counting those on leave of absence), or about 45 percent. Among the majors, only the orchestras of St. Louis (53 percent) and Indianapolis (46 percent) have larger shares of female players. Women account for 44 percent of the rosters of the New York Philharmonic and San Diego Symphony and 40 percent of the Baltimore Symphony’s.

Raman also drills down to female representation in orchestral sections, with unsurprising findings that women are more highly represented among violinists and violists than cellists and double-bassists, dominate the ranks of flutists and harpists, and are sparsely represented among brass instruments other than French horns.

Other old news: Few female conductors work with big orchestras in this country. Marin Alsop of the Baltimore Symphony is the only music director of a top-20 orchestra. JoAnn Falletta, music director of the lower-ranked Buffalo Philharmonic and Virginia Symphony, has guest-conducted a number of larger ensembles, and so presumably figures in Raman’s tabulation.

It would be interesting – and revealing? – to see comparative numbers for major orchestras elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere and in Europe and Asia.