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Europe’s best known female conductor Sian Edwards heads up Dartington’s Advanced





Media Release

Europe's best known female conductor Sian Edwards heads up Dartington's Advanced Conducting Course & asks where the women are?

In 2014, the Advanced Conducting Course at Dartington International Summer School would have expected to see an increase in the number of women applying for the course given the profile raising speech of Marin Alsop at the 2013 performance of the Last Night of the Proms. However, Sian Edwards, probably Europe's best known female conductor who is heading up this year's course says that she has been surprised that not only are there no women on the course, but none even applied.

The appearance of Marin Alsop last September as the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms, and some rude comments from critics about whether women were equipped to conduct an orchestra has led to Dartington joining the debate about women conductors. The furore was caused by comments like those from the head of the Paris Conservatoire, Bruno Mantavani, who wondered whether conducting was too "physically demanding" for most women and Vasily Petrenko, principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, who commented that "a cute girl on a podium means that musicians think about other things".

The observations focused attention on the enormous shortage of female conductors with major orchestras - even in Alsop's homeland top conductors overwhelmingly tend to be male, with only one of the 22 leading US orchestras helmed by a woman.

[image]However Dartington's Advanced Conducting Course has already seen the creation of one rising female star. Holly Mathieson is a graduate of the DISS 2013 course and went on to assist Marin Alsop on her European tour with the Sao Pãolo Symphony as well as at the 2013 Last Night of the Proms. She is now Music Director of the Horizont Musik-Kollektiv in Berlin.

Holly comments, "My time as a conducting fellow at Dartington in 2013 was ideally timed in terms of my development. The course is structured quite uniquely with an enormous amount of time on the podium every day - unmatched by any course in Europe that I know of, and possibly the world - working with brilliant, engaged players and tutors, who are eager to help, criticise and collaborate. It meant that I was able to use those weeks to put into practice everything I'd been working on privately and absorbing at other master classes over the last couple of years, in a safe and supportive environment. Seeing what works, what doesn't, how your changing technique feels in your body and, most importantly, hearing the difference in the sound. Beyond that, I made invaluable professional contacts which have led directly to guest contracts and connections with agents."

Sian Edwards, Head of Conducting at London's Royal Academy of Music, says that this year's course offers two weeks of intense practical study and repertoire will include Mozart Symphony NR. 40, Stravinsky Dumbarton Oaks, Tchaikovsky Serenade, Beethoven Symphony Nr. 7, Berlioz King Lear and Sibelius Symphony Nr. 5. Both weeks start with master classes with professional pianists, where technical and musical ideas and issues can be discussed and worked on, followed by rehearsals with the orchestra, workshops with choir and a point project with the composition students. The course leads up to two orchestral concerts conducted by the students with the Dartington Festival Orchestra.

For women who have been inspired by conductors like Marin Alsop and Sian Edwards, Dartington's course provides the ideal opportunity for some intensive training and tutoring which could result in a real shift in the classical music demographic in the future. This year's Artistic Director, Nicholas Daniel, who is himself an international conductor and oboist, says,"I suspect I am in a minority in this, but it never even occurred to me to balance things towards women conductors in our Summer School this year, I just wanted the best people. As it turns out two of them (Holly and Sian) are brilliant and talented women, and one of them, Sian Edwards, has the important job of training new conductors on our highly respected Advanced Conductors Course.

"Given the same opportunities and training there is no reason why, as in much of the rest of our profession and in all of the training schools, more than half of the great conductors should not be women. That they are not already is an appalling stain on the front of the white shirted reputation of our business, and it must as quickly as possible be corrected."

Women wanting to apply to the 2015 Advanced Conducting Course should make their applications to Dartington International Summer School before February 2015.

Further E/:sue.wiles@dartington.orgor to make a booking T/: 01803 847080

Further press information and high res images: Jane Adkins, A Head for PR Ltd, T/: 01935 813114 or E/

June 2014