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DEAR FRIENDS: WOULD YOU PLEASE SPEAK UP FOR WOMEN IN MUSIC IN SAN FRANCISCO & YOUR CITY?

Updated: Jul 1


In case you, like me, want relief from weeping in despair about the non-status of musical women in 2024, check out this beyond-hilarious ClassicFM satire - and huzzah for this brutal flippancy. (N.B. watch Maestra Barbara Hannigan both conduct -- and sing opera at the same time!)


There are about 2200 orchestras across the US and only about 3% have women as permanent conductors or musical directors. Here is my research and recent blog about this topic. (Above pictured is a guest conductor with pianist Beatrice Rana.)


Today my partner and I will mail the below letter to the President of the San Francisco Symphony asking that Maestra Marin Alsop - or one of a number of existing overly-qualified women (consider Jessica Bejarano, founder and conductor of the SF Philharmonic Orchestra) - be invited to permanently fill the vacant spot in our local musical directorship.


Would you consider doing the same - right now? If you don't live in the Bay Area, would you take a few minutes to contact the President of the symphony in your city or town?


At the same time, please consider speaking up to ask that more compositions by women composers be featured, and more virtuosas be invited to your town to perform, and not just the same ones over and over again, even if they are aging gracefully. A number of young women are coming up!


If you are - and say you are - a fan of music as a musician, administrator, guest condutor, instrumental teacher, virtuosa or virtuoso, or devoted audience member, please ask your friends to do the same, and consider our letter below to the President of the SF Symphony. Feel free to use any of our language or your own to speak up.

Without action, musical women will remain disappeared for another century. That is just not acceptable to me.


In music love, Ann

_______

For a list of suitable women candidates (including some men) for music directorships, please consider the above link to a SF Classical Voice page.


COPY OF LETTER:


Priscilla B. Geeslin, President

San Francisco Symphony

201 Van Ness Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94102


Re: Next Musical Director for the Symphony: Maestra Marin Alsop


Please invite Maestra Marin Alsop to become San Francisco’s permanent musical director. Her credentials are impeccable, and who would not want to live in San Francisco and lead our Symphony?


We are certain there are a number of other competent women who would do an admirable job leading the Symphony if Maestra Alsop cannot be persuaded. What about the SF Philharmonic’s Jessica Bejarano?


Of the 25 largest US orchestras – not ONE is presently led by a woman. Furthermore, women direct only six, or about 3%, of about 2,200 national orchestras.* To our knowledge, the Symphony has never had a woman musical director.


In 2024 these statistics are beyond appalling. Now San Francisco has a chance to assume a leadership role in the local and international musical world, and help right the obvious injustice to women.


We attended four recitals and three orchestral performances in your 22-23 season. It was the first time in our lives that we attended the Symphony (as adults we’ve lived in the Bay Area for about 45 years each and enjoyed ballet and opera performances all along). Afterwards we decided we would not renew our subscription for the foreseeable future, based on the following.


There was no “visceral impact” and no way to enjoy the “visual movement of the musicians” even though two orchestra members tout those experiences in your 25-26 Program. Ticket pricing to sit close up but without senior discounts is prohibitive for us. Perhaps more importantly, our overall symphony experience was sterile and distancing; performances lacked the social component that many promote as significant reasons to attend live music performances. We noted that some lackluster recitalists and a significant number of the same performers were invited back this season and for the upcoming one. You featured some, but why not feature more younger, vibrant, up-and-coming women conductors and virtuosas performing more compositions by women?


Accordingly, we decided to attend local performances in smaller venues featuring women directors such as Jessica Bejarano and the musician-worker co-op Groupmuse for which we have hosted three home concerts since last fall. Those performances provide intimate, thrilling, close contact with music and musical personnel that feature many more women conductors, musicians, and compositions by women than featured at the Symphony.


However, we might reconsider attending the Symphony. But without your commitment to hiring a woman director, we wish you well, but will not support your efforts.


Sincerely,

Ann Grogan and Ron Choy



cc: Maestro Essa Pekka-Salonen

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