What’s all this then?
Last year I looked at the first “post”-pandemic season for 19 of the top U.S. orchestras and broke down the data just about every which way. You can see those posts here and here. Besides satisfying my interest in crunching data, not to mention my love of data entry on my old fashioned, clacky Das keyboard, my analysis prompted me to buy tickets for 31 concerts for the 21/22 season, including about nine concerts each with the National Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, as well as Cleveland (x3), St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (x3), San Francisco (x2), Minnesota (x2), Boston, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles.
This year’s list expands from 19 to 44 orchestras
Along with my analysis last year, came the not-too-surprising result that there is a distinct lack of variety and diversity when it comes to programming. So this year I expanded my list to 55 orchestras in North America. So why is the list only 44 orchestras? Mainly because I got impatient. I will add the others to my spreadsheet when they do announce their programs, but they aren’t included here. The only major US orchestra missing is the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (which is too bad because they fared quite well last year). Canadian orchestras have been a little slower to announce their seasons so I only have data from Toronto, Vancouver, and Orchestre Métropolitain. Even worse, for some reason the Google doesn’t work very well when trying to find Mexican orchestras. They exist of course, but for many I can’t find working websites, and for others their seasons have yet to be published. (If you have good links, let me know. I’d love to add them.)
Not surprisingly, the four orchestras with women music directors or equivalent (Buffalo, Richmond, New Jersey, and Atlanta), have the highest percentage of concerts conducted by women.
Out of the five orchestras who have zero women conducting subscription* concerts next season, none of them have the budget for guest conductors and are led by men, EXCEPT for the Cleveland Orchestra. Twenty-two concerts, guest conductors galore, and Cleveland doen’t have a single concert conducted by a woman. That is beyond pitiful. (*I had to make some judgement calls on what constituted a subscription concert. Each orchestra does things a bit differently in the promotional materials. In some cases it was hard to tell what fit into a subscription season and what didn’t. And I zeroed out anything marked as holiday or pops. I’m doing this for fun in my spare time, so my academic rigor probably isn’t what it should be.)
Although the number of concerts conducted by women is far too low, it is interesting to see that across the continent, in markets big and small, audiences are seeing women on the podium next season. I looked at my own personal concert log that goes back about 35 years, and prior to the pandemic I had only ever seen a woman conduct an orchestra one single time (Marin Alsop). One. In 35 years. Since the pandemic, I have seen Anna Rakitina (Boston), Gemma New (NSO), Simone Young (NSO), and Marin Alsop (Baltimore).
As Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony, it is no surprise that Xian Zhang tops this list, but what is more encouraging is that five of her dates are guest conducting for other orchestras (Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis).
In her first season since leaving the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Only three of Marin Alsop‘s nine concerts are with Baltimore. The others are with Chicago, Dallas, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Seattle. Incidentally, if you haven’t seen the film The Conductor, you really should. It’s a great portrait of a true trailblazer.
Tying with the newly freed-up Alsop is Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska who has the most gigs without having a Music Director position at any of them. (Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Minnesota, National, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Toronto)
And no discussion of women conductors is complete without talking about JoAnn Falletta. Her list of firsts is amazing, her discography is amazing, and her programming in Buffalo is amazing (although woefully light on women composers). In addition to her Music Director position in Buffalo, Falletta is guest conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and the Florida Orchestra.