'Ask any professional musician how many female conductors they have played for'

Alice Farnham

'Ask any professional musician how many female conductors they have played for'

New NCH Female Conductor Programme aims to ‘break the cycle', mentoring six young conductors over 10 months.

The National Concert Hall has announced a new Female Conductor Programme as part of its 2017/18 Learning and Participation Programme.

The scheme, which is supported by Grant Thornton, will see six amateur conductors undertake a 10-month programme designed to create a new generation of female conductors. These six musicians will be coached and mentored by British conductor Alice Farnham, who is co-founder and Artistic Director of the Women Conductors programme with the Royal Phiharmonic Society, as well as guest lecturer for female conductor programmes in the US and Sweden.

Speaking to The Journal of Music about the NCH’s Female Conductor Programme, Farnham said:

Undoubtedly women are enjoying good careers in conducting these days, but the stats are very clear world-wide that there is still an enormous gender imbalance. Ask any professional musician how many female conductors they have played for, and they would be lucky to use more than the fingers of one hand. Ask them how many male conductors and they would quickly lose count. 

Over the course of the 10-month programme, the six participants will take part in a number of intensive weekend training sessions, a series of six online tutorials, and ongoing mentoring, including with visiting international conductors. Female musicians over the age of 18 who have reached a high standard of musicianship are eligible, and the National Concert Hall has issued a call for teachers and directors to nominate students. Nominations will be accepted until 5pm on 30 June.

Farnham added:

With so few role-models, very few female music students are even considering conducting as a career option. Since over half these music students are female, the music world must surely be missing out on some real conducting talent. The reasons are nuanced, but I believe positive action is necessary to break this cycle and normalise the idea of a woman on the podium. Programmes like this give an injection of encouragement and a safe learning environment in which to begin the long journey to becoming a conductor. Our ambition is that in years to come this programme will no longer need to exist.

Also included in the NCH’s recently announced Learning and Participation Programme 2017/18 are the ParaMusica Award, a bursary recognising the achievements of musicians with disabilities; the Primary Ensemble Project aimed at musical groups in primary schools; Music in Mind in partnership with Mental Health Ireland; as well as composition and performance awards, and community ensembles such as SingOut and CAOS Ensemble.

Listen to an interview with Alice Farnham below. For further details on the NCH Female Conductor Programme, visit https://goo.gl/lZJKPA.

Published on 18 April 2017