In the tough, male-dominated world of international orchestral conducting, one woman has captured the attention of both audiences and musicians: American conductor Marin Alsop. Equal parts approachable, astute, and accomplished, Ms. Alsop is dedicated to making amazing music, while at the same time, tireless in training and inspiring other women to take their place on the orchestral podium.
In 2013, Alsop became the first woman, in the 118-yr history of the BBC Proms, to conduct the famous “Last night of the Proms” concert. During that concert, she gave a speech (a tradition for the LNOP concert) that expressed “…shock that it can be 2013 and there can still be firsts for women.” She then added: “Here’s to the second, third, fourths, fifths, hundredths to come.”
It goes without saying, of course, that Alsop was not given the honour because she is a woman, but because she is an accomplished conductor; she has been music director of the Baltimore Symphony since 2007, of the Sao Paulo Symphony since 2013, and a guest conductor of some of the world’s finest orchestras.
In 1984, long before her own career was established, she began working toward developing a fellowship program to embrace other women who needed opportunities that would not have otherwise been available to them. “I have never ascribed to the philosophy that, ‘It was tough for me so it will be tough for you.’ My philosophy is: ‘It was tough for me so that I could make it easier for you.’”
We all have the ability to “make it easier” for someone else: to open a door, be a champion, clear a path, celebrate an underdog, take a risk. If we take the time to pay attention, we will discover that there are ways that only we can make a difference in the life of someone else. Our circle of influence could be widened to include an outsider. And that outsider could become a barrier-breaker. Marin Alsop was a “first-er,” and not just at the Proms. Her commitment to others has meant that there will be “seconds, and thirds, and fourths, and hundredths . . .”
We are each a “first-er” at something. There is always someone who is looking up to us, coming along at an earlier stage of the process, who would benefit from a supportive fellow traveller. Consider how you could “make it easier” for the seconds, thirds and fourths in your midst to realize their full potential. Whatever your good, beautiful and true offering to the world is, commit to celebrating and championing someone else’s offering this week.
Marin Alsop, in a return to the Proms Schedule for 2015
(full concert, 3hrs, 45mins)
2013 Fellow with the Marin Alsop/Takai Concordia Conducting Fellowship
currently, Assistant Conductor with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra
snippet from Schumann, Symphony #3, Lebhaft