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Brydie-Leigh Bartleet

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About the author

Dr Brydie-Leigh Bartleet completed her doctorate at the University of Queensland in 2005. Her thesis was entitled, “Gendering the Podium: The Journey of Professional Women Conductors.” Her current research interests include feminist pedagogy, self-reflexive artistic practice and autoethnography. She teaches courses in musicology and research methods at both the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University and the University of Queensland, and is the Senior Research Assistant at the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre. She is the Music Director/Conductor of the Young Conservatorium Wind Orchestra and the University of Queensland Symphonic Wind Ensemble.

Publication details

Volume 15, November 2006

Conducting Motherhood:
The Personal and Professional Experiences of Women Orchestral Conductors


Despite the increasing presence of contemporary women orchestral conductors, their experiences have been met with a peculiar silence. Given that they are still a small minority, in a mostly male-dominated field, their stories have scarcely permeated the profession’s discourses. Although there have been a very limited number of scholarly publications and stories in the press, large-scale research into women conductors’ experiences in the orchestral profession has been minimal. In the small amount of research that has been done, discussions have focused on more public and professional issues, such as women’s historical achievements, career paths, mentorships, and institutional barriers (c.f. Jagow; and Hinely). Private issues, such as motherhood, have largely remained undocumented.

Acknowledgements of women conductors’ experiences with mothering have mostly amounted to a few offhand lines by journalists about a woman conductor either having children or being pregnant (c.f. Hawley 16-23). Even though motherhood is oftentimes represented as a woman’s most important and all-consuming role in Western society (Benvenestie 10), there has been little in-depth discussion in conducting or musicological discourses on how this role connects (or disconnects) with women’s experiences on the orchestral podium (c.f. Edwards 220-236). Questions of how women conductors balance their international careers with child rearing, and how their experiences resonate with those of mothers in other high-powered fields, have barely been asked. Considerations of how women’s roles as mothers enhance their work on the orchestral podium, and how their experiences on the podium enrich their roles as mothers, have scarcely been broached.

On one hand, such issues may not have entered conducting and musicological discourses because there are, in fact, very few mothers working in the orchestral conducting profession. On the other hand, for those who are mothers, such private concerns have not customarily been seen as relevant or consequential to their professional work as conductors anyway. Moreover, because of their minority status in this field, and obvious differences from the male norm, any discussion of women conductors’ experiences with motherhood could also serve to marginalise them even further.

In order to explore such matters, I undertook a four-year ethnographic study with seventeen professional women conductors across the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, from 2000-2004. In this study I explored a broad range of issues relating to the profession’s nineteenth-century ideology and women conductors’ bodies, gestures, power, leadership, relationships, motherhood (and lack thereof), education, and opportunities. Because an ethnographic approach focuses on openness and mutual exchange, with its point of departure being the lived experiences of the researched, my study involved one-on-one semi-structured interviews (of approximately two hours) with each women conductor, in a location of her choice. The field of study was not defined in terms of a locality, but rather as a field of shifting and fluid relations significant to the women and myself (see Norman 121, 138). My own status as a young female conductor played an important part in this process; it provided a point of introduction and commonality, and clearly affected the words and stories the women chose to impart to me. The close communication we shared resulted in a reflexive process, as I considered their responses and related them to my own experiences.

This article directly stems from my ethnographic research and focuses on a theme that was explored in the larger study: conducting motherhood. In the article I interweave recent feminist literature on mothering with the women conductors’ stories of pregnancy, child rearing and childlessness to examine how the conducting profession appears to consider women’s private experiences with motherhood incompatible with their public lives on the podium. While the group of mothers in my study were certainly in the minority – of the seventeen women whom I interviewed, only five are mothers – their experiences are still very telling.

At this point I should acknowledge that I am not proposing to make a special case for women conductors, nor am I aiming to show that women conductors’ experiences with motherhood are drastically different from those of women in other high-powered fields. Indeed, there will certainly be many parallels with women’s mothering experiences in other professions. Rather, I am suggesting that an examination of women conductors – who are working in a profession that continues to remain a bastion of masculine patriarchy – certainly brings into stark contrast a number of issues that have been discussed in the feminist literature on mothering in recent years, and warrant the attention of the conducting profession.

Contextualising the Tensions Between Conducting and Mothering: A Brief History

It is useful to briefly consider how the profession, from the nineteenth century onwards, has venerated the public (and I would argue masculinised) performances of conductors, and trivialised their private lives. The increasingly publicised nature of conducting grew alongside the rapidly expanding public concert traditions of the nineteenth century (Bloom 254). During this time, conductors were idealised by the concert-going bourgeoisie and grew in popularity and prominence, resulting in the conducting profession becoming recognised as a specialised field (Lebrecht 3). Significantly, at the same time, women’s roles were becoming increasingly privatised across the Westernised world (Reich 130; Jagow 126), and centred on home keeping, bearing children, and performing domestic duties (Yeo 4). While women were encouraged to cultivate domestic music making – for example, by bourgeois families seeking to enhance their daughter’s marriage prospects – due to the increasingly prominent and public status of the conductor in the nineteenth century, women were strongly discouraged from participating in this profession (Reich 171). The very appearance of a woman conductor on the concert stage, in front of a paying public, would have undoubtedly undermined the social status of her bourgeois family. Consequently, even the most gifted women were expected to confine their musical activities to the home, particularly if they were married or mothers (Reich 131). Such private roles were unmistakably divergent from the public roles required of male orchestral conductors.

During the twentieth century the position of conductor became even more prominent and influential, and its nineteenth-century ideals became all the more entrenched (Blaukopf 13). Hailed for their public showmanship, twentieth-century conductors also became renowned for their idiosyncratic interpretations of the great symphonic works (Schonberg 24). Orchestral conductors emerged as the figureheads of musical culture in the eyes of the public and continued to rise in popularity, not only with bourgeois concertgoers, but also with powerful figures in society, including politicians and industrialists (Lebrecht 3). Throughout this climactic time in the conducting profession’s history, women were also making significant progress in their fight for social and political equality. A strong wave of feminism was sweeping through Europe, notably in England, as middle-class women, in particular, began to fight against growing social and material discrepancies between themselves and men. While this first wave of feminism was not able to penetrate the elite and increasingly prominent conducting profession, around this time we can observe small numbers of women assuming conducting positions. These positions, however, were always less prominent in terms of the orchestral hierarchy, whether they involved a guest conducting role or the directorship of an all-women’s orchestra or orchestral chorus (Hinely 42-49).

In the scant amount of commentary about these early women conductors, discussions seem to focus on how they grappled to adapt their behaviour to fit into such a male-defined role. Little mention is made of the relationship between their private lives (including their experiences with motherhood) and their conducting experiences. Such information would have undoubtedly been disruptive to their public role on the podium. Therefore, while first-wave feminists of this time drew on their private and “acceptable” positions of motherhood as a “useful gateway to politics” (Yeo 11) and reform, the opposite was often the case for women conductors. They were expected to comply with the masculine-defined public persona of the conductor, and keep the personal, womanly, aspects of their lives concealed.

This history provides an illuminating backdrop for my discussion about contemporary women conductors and motherhood. While the twenty-first century is witness to the largest critical mass of professional women conductors in history, my conversations with them suggest that they still have to face a number of challenges when negotiating their personal and professional lives. While many feminist writers have argued that motherhood is an important factor “in each and every work sector” where women participate (Rusch-Drutz 90), in the conducting profession such aspects of a woman’s private life are still seen as unrelated to their work on the podium. Furthermore, many of the women whom I interviewed have been part of the second wave of feminism, which has pushed the problematic notion of “having it all.” The difficulty is that such a notion has, at times, been in direct conflict with the demands placed on women conductors, leaving them to grapple with these issues silently on their own.

“You can have it all if you’re prepared to make sacrifices”: Conducting and Motherhood

Feminist authors have suggested that since the nineteenth century Western culture has communicated the good news of motherhood; however, this culture has not openly conveyed the wider experiential context that also includes sorrow, anger, frustration, pain, confusion and constraint (LeBlanc 1; Maushart 2-6). Whether women hide behind the old, unworkable mythology of Madonnahood, or seek refuge in the new and equally unworkable mythology of “having it all,” they are wearing what Maushart calls the “mask of silence” (16). Maushart believes that like other “women’s problems,” public revelation of motherhood’s indelicate, murky depths is a clear breach of cultural protocol. Women are expected to take it like a woman: stoically, singly, and silently (315).

A striking example of how this silence and stoicism has been played out on the podium has occurred during the women conductors’ pregnancies. As the pregnant body has traditionally been seen as the epitome of womanhood, it has been perceived as highly disruptive by the conducting profession. It cannot be moulded into a masculine-like image on the public podium and so needs to be tempered and controlled as much as possible. Regardless of the fact that pregnant bodies are increasingly being presented as appealing in the media and public eye (c.f. Metcalf 4-5), this is certainly not the case on the podium. Nicolette Fraillon (Music Director and Chief Conductor of The Australian Ballet) spoke of the difficulty of this:

I conducted all the way through eight months of pregnancy, up to eight-months. It’s always then because you’re a woman, if you’re tired ... with a male they’d say, “Oh, that’s okay, he’s tired, he has just flown in from wherever and has had a very busy rehearsal schedule.” And with me it was always, “Oh well there you go, the woman,” kind of thing (personal interview, 31 August 2001).

Simone Young (Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Hamburg Philharmonic) also recounted similar stories of conducting whilst eight-months pregnant. She recalls vomiting on a number of occasions in her dressing-room before having to conduct an entire opera, as though nothing had happened: “There would have been nothing I would have liked better while I was pregnant than just to stop. But, I knew that if I did that not only would the criticism be, ‘Oh, she hasn’t got any stamina.’ There would be the criticism of what happens when you are a woman – grossly unfair” (personal interview, 13 August 1999). The conducting profession does not want to acknowledge the tired, swelling, and vomiting pregnant body of a woman conductor. The women are left to make the personal sacrifices needed to pursue this profession, even if this means silently and stoically running their pregnant body into the ground.

When the women conductors whom I interviewed did eventually have their children, their silent tiredness did not stop; in fact, it heavily increased. The women conductors’ experiences are echoed by Maushart when she suggests that as women try to balance their career demands with motherhood they have to face guilt, stress, chronic fatigue and other mental and physical illnesses as a result (2-6). As the women conductors told me, motherhood compels them to draw on their entire being – their bodies, hearts and minds – and balancing this commitment with a career that is also very physically and emotionally demanding is not easy. Indeed, the term that often came up in my interviews with the conducing mothers when discussing the management of their lives was “juggling.” While women might be brought up to believe we can, and should, “have it all,” Haussegger notes that the disjuncture between these expectations and the price that women have to pay is growing absurdly and painfully wide (1). Instead of having it all, it seems that women are doing it all. As Young commented,

Our generation has kind of been, well you’re ten-fifteen years younger than me, but we’ve been brought up also to believe that you can have it all ... if you’re prepared to make sacrifices at your own expense ... I am constantly sleep-deprived and have been for the last three years .... There have been many times when I’ve conducted Lohengrin or Die Meistersinger and been home in my bed at two and been up at five to get the six o’clock flight so I could get to the school sports day, for example, and then go to the airport to get back on the plane at four p.m. and I work terribly hard to make sure that my kids don’t miss out too much ... and for the last two years I have had the baby travelling with me at all times (personal interview, 13 August 1999).

Young raises the point that “having it all,” comes at a heavy price. In some way, one might say that sacrificing sleep does not equate to “having it all.” Even if this means flying between two countries in one day – so that she can attend her child’s sports day like any other “normal mother” would – she is prepared to yield to these demands that she makes of herself. The difficulty in this balancing act is that because women’s mothering responsibilities are seen as outside the concerns of the podium it becomes an individual’s problem, not one of structural inequity. Andrea Quinn (Music Director of the New York City Ballet) also spoke about this balancing act:

It’s very difficult. I’m lucky in that I have a supportive husband. ... One of the most important criteria for me working is to work in a regular job like the one I have now so that even if I have to work until eleven o’clock in the evening I am at home for the night and I am there to take the kids to school the next morning. ... My career has taken off in a peculiar way. My husband – when Lucy, my seven-year-old was just born – was actually very sick and he had stomach cancer. ... So the balance because of his illness had to go, the pressure was on me, and sometimes that’s very hard because as a Mum I naturally want to be with my children and now because we have a baby of course that’s harder (personal interview, 14 February 2002).

As LeBlanc suggests, the difficulty for working mothers seems to be that the ideology of being a “good mother” is entwined with her always being available to her children, spending time with them, guiding, supporting, encouraging and correcting them, as well as loving and caring for them physically (146). A “good mother” is also responsible for the cleanliness of her children’s home environment, is unselfish, and puts the needs of her children before her own (Wearing 85). As Quinn mentioned, having a permanent position – which allows her to go home every night and then take her children to school the next morning – is vitally important. When Eve Queler’s (Music Director of the Opera Orchestra of New York) children were young, she also made sure that she had a permanent position and was available to meet them after school:

I worked at the City Opera and then we moved to the State Theatre and I worked over there and the schedule was very, very heavy and it was very difficult. We had to play everything. I had two children and the children would come home from school and I would have to go home to make sure somebody was there and ultimately I put the children in the children’s chorus so all I would have to do was go and get them and then bring them back and then they would spend the whole afternoon and evening and they sang in Tosca and Boheme. ... When I first started doing this I tried to cover the fact that I had children because I was afraid no one would ask me to play for them because you have to cancel all the time, they get sick and they’re not in school (personal interview, 12 February 2002).

Queler’s plan for balancing her motherly duties with her work responsibilities once again alerts us to the fact that while women may be free to pursue their careers they are still expected to fulfil certain roles at home. These responsibilities are in stark contrast to those associated with fathers; men are not traditionally expected to fulfil roles at home over and above their working and travelling commitments. Customarily, if men do help around the home, it is simply seen as a bonus. As Queler went on to say,

I mean it’s not perfect; it’s not as smooth as it sounds. ... Any woman with a job, who is a wife and mother, has two jobs. One is your job-job and the other is when you get home. “What’s for dinner?” “What does the place look like?” “Does everybody have clean clothes for tomorrow?” So you have two roles. ... So I think that all women who work have to be a little schizophrenic (personal interview, 12 February 2002).

This notion of a “double-shift,” has been widely discussed in feminist literature regarding marriage, relationships, parenting and work (c.f. Abbey and O’Reilly; Benveniste). As the literature suggests, mothers continue to regard their workforce participation to be a privilege and they accept that they must pay for that opportunity by consenting to work a full “second-shift” at home, as wives and mothers.

The difficulty is that some of these women conductors simply cannot stay in one place in order to ensure consistent work and an international career profile; they have to maintain mobility and undertake a tremendous amount of travelling. Fraillon described how she has struggled with this:

I find [it] heartrending being away three months at a time, even confident that I had a partner who was doing well. And again I think that is different again from men to women and I think that is the emotional bonding stuff ... having the child in you and then out of you, I think there is a bond that is very special and different, to mother to father. And my husband who is an orchestra manager, would go away for periods too, we sort of alternate. So he never seemed to, he didn’t have a problem with that, whereas I really felt every single day and even him saying things are fine, this kind of lack of connection and found it really difficult (personal interview, 31 August 2001).

Fraillon touches on the very deep and unique bond that a mother shares with her child. Fraillon’s recollection of the heartrending lack of physical connection with her children when travelling is something that all of the conducting mothers have spoken about. Feminist theorists, such as Dunlop, have spoken about the nature of this ineffable bond between a mother and her child, detached by childbirth yet strangely inseparable from each other’s flesh (103). As a woman rigorously pursues her career, this estrangement from her child becomes a splitting or fragmenting of her Self and is very difficult to navigate (Dunlop 107). Mothers see their children as a part of their own Self and when they leave their child they feel as though they are leaving a part of themselves behind. These women conductors are constantly reminded that those who challenge dominant discourses often do so at their own social, material and emotional expense (Moore 65).

As these conducting mothers pursue their careers alongside their parenting, they are making significant sacrifices – in effect it appears that they cannot “have it all.” In the end they perhaps feel that professionally, as conductors, and personally, as mothers, they simply do not meet all of these expectations and demands. Thus fulfilling the role of a traditionally “good mother” – who routinely takes care of her children – is not always possible. For travelling mothers, a number of the day-to-day responsibilities need to fall on their husbands or partners. As Fraillon mentioned, maintaining a family and home is “only possible by having a partner or support systems in place, that are hugely supportive and prepared to take on a lot of things that would have traditionally been seen as ‘Mum’s role’” (personal interview, 31 August 2001). This, of course, suggests that the partner of a woman conductor must be even more nurturing and supportive than the “usual husband” (see Heilbrun 81). Young also spoke of this: “Being an international conductor means by definition a huge amount of travelling and trying to maintain any sort of real home-life as well is next to impossible, unless you are prepared to make massive sacrifices of your own time. I mean people like me, how we do it ... I have an extraordinary husband” (personal interview, 13 August 1999). Here the notion of an “extraordinary husband” entails him playing a “motherly” role. The perception is that the traditional inequalities of a marriage would need to be “flipped around,” for a woman to be able to manage both a conducting career and motherhood. As Cheng identifies, “Famous male conductors generally have wives who devote themselves totally to their husbands’ careers. The joke is, of course, that women conductors need wives” (85), or at least partners who will take on that role.

The issue of balancing motherhood and conducting is only part of this picture. One of the young conductors I interviewed, Sarah Ioannides (Music Director of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, Texas, and the Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra, South Carolina), alluded to this:

It’s very important for me to nurture a home and a family and to be there. ... For me life is not only conducting. It’s not only about music. That’s part of life. But there are other things that I care deeply about, care very much about. People and family; you know, life. And I think life should enrich me as a musician in order to fulfil my role as conductor, and I think if I’m not able to have those fulfilling relationships or cultivate trusting relationships, I wonder what kind of a conductor I would be (personal interview, 18 February 2002).

Ioannides’ comment, “life is not only conducting,” resonates with remarks made by some of the other women whom I interviewed. They believe that one’s familial relationships can fuel their musical life and visa versa. As Quinn mentioned, “It’s something the children can partake in. They’re able to come to performances or come to rehearsals; it’s something that they actually gain pleasure from their mother doing and that to me makes a lot of difference” (personal interview, 14 February 2002). Negotiating this mutual exchange can often be a tricky task because of the expectations that society and the conducting profession place on women; however, the possibilities that Ioannides’ and Quinn’s comments evoke are intriguing.

If we move beyond the time-management discussion and the conducting discourses that deem women’s mothering experiences inferior, can motherhood be seen as an asset on the podium? This is certainly not a question that has been raised in conducting discourses. In the context of business management, scholars have explored the possibilities of this premise. As Carney describes, the notion that motherhood is a form of management and that mothers are uniquely prepared for management roles has been a topic of interest for many scholars looking for a positive alternative to the oppositional way of viewing work and motherhood (20-23). If related to the conducting profession, we could ask how a woman’s subjectivity as a mother could enrich her subjectivity as a conductor, and visa versa. This is a question that requires much more consideration and debate from those in the field, considering how it could fall into the trap of essentialism very easily. Moreover, the difficulty is that it excludes the vast majority of women conductors, who are not mothers, from the discussion.

“My projects are my babies”: Childlessness and Conducting

While childless women may “represent an enigma within cultures that hold to the idea of natural imperative in women to reproduce” (Dever and Saugeres 116), on the podium they are positioned in a different light. Given the prevailing public-private spilt in this profession, women’s childlessness has not presented an unusual comment-worthy situation on the podium. In fact, most of the women whom I interviewed have consciously made the decision not to have children. When discussing this issue, many of the non-mothers seemed to be well informed of the current discourse on balance and responsibility. The message was clear – they could not possibly imagine how other women conductors balance their careers with motherhood. As Marin Alsop (Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony) said: “You know you have to find a ‘wife,’ basically ... You have to find someone who will fulfil that role and take care of the kids ... ’cause you can’t drag them around. ... But, I see some women conductors with children. I don’t know how, how successful it is” (personal interview, 16 November 2000). Sharon Choa (Artistic Director of the Chamber Orchestra Anglia) reiterated this by saying, “I certainly cannot perceive having a family and children and at the same time doing what I’m doing. ... A number of female conductors have families and children. I don’t know how they cope. Maybe they have wonderful husbands” (personal interview, 27 February 2002). Like Alsop and Choa, a number of the non-mothers expressed surprise and almost disbelief that their female colleagues, who have children, are able to balance motherhood with their conducting careers. All of the childless women conductors seemed to speak the same mantra, “I don’t know how they do it, maybe they have wonderful husbands”; as though combining the two subjectivities of conductor and mother is a complex equation that they have found too difficult to solve, or have not had the desire to unravel.

For the majority of these women conductors the decision to not have children is something they have accepted quite willingly. On this subject Nan Washburn (Music Director of the Plymouth Symphony) said, “I made the choice a long time ago that I wasn’t going to have kids and that it’s really important to do the work I’m doing and everybody makes sacrifices and has to kind of balance that, but I think it’s worth it” (personal interview, 6 February 2002). Similarly, when I asked Apo Hsu (Orchestra Director at the National Taiwan Normal University) if she had any family commitments her response was:

I would have to say no, which is unfortunate, as some people do lament that you kind of have to. For women especially it’s very hard to do both. I know a lot of people do, do both, but it’s a great challenge and you have to make compromises to do it. And I guess fortunately for me I don’t have a family to worry about. I’m free to pursue, a hundred percent, no kids to worry about (personal interview, 24 January 2002).

Having conducted an all-female orchestra, Hsu is very attuned to the challenges and tensions that working mothers face. In a similar vein Kate Tamarkin (Music Director of the Charlottesville and University Symphony in Charlottesville) also spoke about her reasons for not having children: “I said to myself past a certain point that I wasn’t going to have kids. [BB – Did your career influence this decision?] [Yes] but it’s not something I feel badly about. What I would have felt badly about is if I had children and neglected them. I would have wanted to be a full-time mother” (personal interview, 21 January 2002). Denise Ham (Tutor in Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music) also stated, “I don’t think I would have coped with a husband and children because I would have had to be there doing things” (personal interview, 26 February 2002). Once again the notion of being a “good mother” who fulfils certain responsibilities in the home, is seen as incongruous with maintaining a conducting career.

Many of the childless women conductors also went on to discuss the notion of guilt, a familiar concept in the discourse. However, they did not express guilt over their childless position, but rather a potential guilt they would have felt if they had had children. As Lucinda Carver (Music Director and Conductor of the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra) revealed, “I’ve thought about having children – I love kids, but I feel that for me, anything I do, I tend to do one hundred percent. I think the guilt at not being able to spend the amount of time raising the kids would be extremely difficult” (personal interview, 17 February 2002). As much discourse on mothering suggests, this sense of guilt is tied to the idea of “good mothers” and “bad mothers” (LeBlanc 146). Carver’s comment implies that if she were a mother she would always feel guilty that the life she was offering her children was not quite good enough.

Some of the other women, who were in marriages or relationships, defined further reasons for not having children beyond the perceived mismatch between conducting and motherhood. As Victoria Bond (freelance conductor and composer) explained,

I don’t think that everyone is born to be a parent and as somebody who believes in negative population growth I think more of us should be responsible and not have children, than for everybody to feel as though they haven’t done their job as a human being if they haven’t reproduced themselves. I really think that we are overpopulated in many areas of the world and it would be a great blessing to have fewer children and to take better care of them than we do today (personal interview, 15 February 2002).

While Bond went on to say that her decision was partly influenced by her career, her justification for not having children seems to be indicative of a personal position she has also taken. Similarly, Odaline de la Martinez (Artistic Director and Conductor of Lontano) explained,

It was a conscious choice because my music is my babies. My projects are my babies. ... I know there are people who really want children, but I never wanted them. And I think it’s selfish to have children when you don’t want them or selfish to want children because you think you are to have them (personal interview, 25 February 2002).

Martinez went on to say that she does not feel the need to have children in order to validate her status as a woman; her musical responsibilities are enough. Contrary to popular analyses, which portray the anguish that women feel when facing the ultimatum of work or mothering (see Dever and Saugeres 124), Bond and Martinez’s responses offer an alternate reading to this dualistic way of thinking. While the women conductors’ stories of juggling, balancing and guilt highlighted in this article offer significant insights into the current situation women face and potential dilemmas that future generations of women conductors might confront, we also need to look at the ways in which women conductors, such as Bond and Martinez, transgress the entrenched binaries set up by their profession, and in turn offer us new ways of thinking about these dilemmas.


As more and more women continue to ascend the world’s podiums, it will be interesting to see how these issues will be played out in the next generation. Maushart cautions that the vast majority of young women today will soon marry, or partner, have babies and settle down to a life of professional compromise, maternal ambivalence and chronic fatigue (232). As Maushart contends, motherhood will not slam shut the doors opened by educational and economic opportunity for women, but it will narrow and distort them leaving young women feeling constrained, torn, frustrated and cheated (233). The possible implications for the next generation of women conductors are worrying, given how little consideration is currently given to issues relating to motherhood by the conducting profession.

This article has certainly not offered any answers or solutions to the complicated relationship between conducting and motherhood. Rather, it has aimed to serve as a conversation within the conducting profession, and challenge the notion that this field should be exempt from such concerns. Despite the fact that motherhood relates to the personal experiences of a small minority of women on the podium at present, it still has very significant ramifications for future generations of women conductors, and the profession as a whole. While the apparent mismatch between child rearing and pursuing an international conducting career requires more discussion, the notion of a mutually beneficial relationship between mothering and conducting, where the two roles can enrich one another, also presents a significant proposition that warrants further consideration.


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