Perth Symphony is elevating women onto the podium again in 2020

Perth Symphony brings back its hugely successful ‘Women on the Podium’ initiative in 2020. The first of the two weekend-long programs takes place at St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School from Friday 28th February to Sunday 1st March.

Women on the Podium in 2020 is made possible thanks to funding from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC), The State of Western Australia, the Minderoo Foundation and generous donations from Perth Symphony’s Women’s Conductor’s Circle.

Building on the 2019 program, a strong pool of applications were received from women aged between 17 and 60, from across Australia, some having previously studied in Europe and Russia. 12 applicants were chosen to take part in the program; however, it will engage almost 30 women throughout this weekend alone.

Alice Farnham (Founder of the ‘Women Conductors’ program in the UK) once again comes to Perth to join Jessica Gethin (Inaugural Fellow of the Dallas Institute for Women Conductors) as a mentor. The participants will also receive training in areas such as body movement, goal setting and media training, designed to give them the skills, encouragement and confidence to take on this competitive and male dominated industry.

“A huge amount has happened during the past five or six years to normalise the idea of women on the podium” says Alice Farnham, “Less than 20 years ago I was told by a male Swedish conductor that women couldn’t conduct because ‘their breasts get in the way.’ Just 6 years ago a well-known Russian conductor was quoted as saying that ‘a cute girl on the podium’ is distracting to the players.”

Women on the Podium Ambassador Jessica Gethin explained why these programs are essential to challenge stereotypes and broaden perceptions, expressing how “it often felt like I had to prove that women could conduct rather than working on how Jessica conducts! My experience in Dallas showed me how being surrounded by other conductors who were women allowed for greater artistic development.”

Complementing the #EachforEqual theme of International Women’s Day 2020, this initiative aims to improve situations for future female conductors by providing a supportive and encouraging environment for them to learn and harness their skills, not just in conducting, but in musicianship in general. Farnham concluded by saying that she very much hopes “that a program like this won’t be necessary in 10 or 20 year’s time.”

Previous participants have gone on to be accepted into other competitive conducting programs across Australia, conducted recordings with a Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts Symphony Orchestra and had their eyes opened to a passion and career option they had never previously considered.

We are looking forward to a fantastic and inspiring weekend! Special thanks to St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School for hosting us again this year and lending us their fabulous facilities.