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Royal Northern Sinfonia and Royal Philharmonic Society partner to advance gender equality in conducting

Posted on 14 June 2021


Royal Northern Sinfonia and Royal Philharmonic Society establish major new partnership to advance gender equality in conducting

Royal Northern Sinfonia, the orchestra of Sage Gateshead, and the RPS are delighted to be collaborating on a multi-year partnership representing an advanced new phase in the highly-regarded RPS Women Conductors programme, set to bring the next big female conducting talents to the North East.

Established in 2014 by conductor Alice Farnham, the Women Conductors programme has to date helped over 500 women try their hand and further their skills at conducting, in a range of courses at varying levels nationwide. From this, many talented individuals have arisen. This new phase will bring together some of the most promising conductors twice a year to spend dedicated time furthering their skills with the entire RNS, and year-round receive support and guidance from the RPS on attaining professional opportunities.

The partnership gets underway with a two-day pilot at Sage Gateshead today, 14 June. Its participants will be the conductors Olivia Clarke, Helen Harrison, Charlotte Corduroy and Hannah Schneider. Applications for the consequent opportunities, from January 2022, will be welcomed by the RPS this Autumn. Follow @RoyalPhilSoc for updates.

In recent years, the world has increasingly asked why, in many walks of life, men often get the majority of opportunities. This is particularly conspicuous in conducting where stark statistics show we are still far from equality.

Only one British orchestra has a female principal conductor. At last count, only six women conductors have titled roles amid the several hundred conductors on the staff of professional British orchestras – and only 22 of the 371 conductors represented by British agents were female. That’s 5.5%.

Alice Farnham said: “I am delighted to be working in partnership on this new adventure with RNS and the RPS.  The climate has changed so much since I co-founded Women Conductors in 2014, and many talented and confident female conductors are emerging.  This is a chance for them to gain not only essential podium time with a professional orchestra, but to allow them to take risks and be adventurous in their music making.  We are looking forward to exploring the relationship between conductor and orchestra, yet in a safe and constructive environment for players and conductors alike.”

Thorben Dittes, Director of Royal Northern Sinfonia, said: “We are hugely excited to be a core part of this important programme. Sage Gateshead and Royal Northern Sinfonia have been working hard to ensure equality of opportunity and access to music making and to building careers in music. This new partnership is an important addition to our work in this area and we are excited to learn ourselves and support the sector’s learnings around how to best support opportunity for women conductors.”

James Murphy, Chief Executive, Royal Philharmonic Society said: “We’re delighted to be presenting this new chapter of the RPS Women Conductors programme with Sage Gateshead and Royal Northern Sinfonia. It’s testament to conductor Alice Farnham’s vision that, entirely of her own volition, she started this initiative in 2014 which has now given more than 500 women the opportunity to try their hand and further their skills at conducting. Among them are some fantastic talents sure to gain much from this substantial, sustained new association with one of the UK’s foremost orchestras and its superb players. We invite artist managers and colleagues who hire conductors nationwide to follow those participating.”