Marin Alsop - 'Be generous - it is a reward unto itself'

Marin Alsop - 'Be generous - it is a reward unto itself'

Revoice! Magazine is delighted to feature an interview with internationally-acclaimed conductor Marin Alsop for International Womens Day.

Catriona McDermid asked her about role models, positive discrimination, and more...

Does it surprise you that in 2017 you are still one of only a handful of world-class female conductors?

Yes and no. Gender equality has never been a priority in our society. The fact that the ERA (equal rights amendment) was never passed in the USA speaks volumes.

Given the lack of female role models in the conducting profession, who were your role models as a young musician? 

I had an incredible mother who excelled at everything she did - she was a wonderful role model and always told me that I could do anything I wanted to do and be anything I wanted to be.

Is there a particular genre of classical music that enthuses you most as a conductor and if so why? 

I really love many styles of classical music: Russian repertoire, 20th century, contemporary repertoire, BRAHMS! MAHLER!!

What are your thoughts on the value of orchestras using positive discrimination to hire and promote more female conductors? 

There are many wonderfully talented women conductors so I don’t see why any organization would have to consider discrimination to justify hiring one of these extraordinarily gifted women! Same thing with programming music by women composers.

Gender inequality among conductors seems to be an issue that is still largely swept under the carpet, surfacing in the news only occasionally, such as for this special International Women's Day edition of Revoice! Why do you think this issue is not more widely discussed? 

Gender inequality is not often discussed pertaining to any field, but inequality - racial, gender, economic - is a huge issue facing us today.  Discussing it openly is only the first step towards resolving it.

What advice would you give to aspiring young conductors?

Follow your passion. Put the music first and you will never go wrong.

Outreach work plays a large role in your work as a musician, from school programmes like OrchKids to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's scheme Rusty Musicians, and the Campos do Jordão International Winter Festival in Latin America. What do you perceive to be the main challenges facing widely-accessible music education today, and how can we work to overcome these challenges?

Funding and access are the two main obstacles we face. If people would realize that access to music and art results in healthier children and happier adults, perhaps they would invest more in equalizing access for all children. Studying an instrument creates self-confidence and skills that teach children how to become productive, listening adults. Don’t we need that more today than ever?

As a musician based in the USA but who works all over the world, do you feel that the USA's political climate threatens the cultural life of its artists?

The political climate in the USA and in many other regions threatens more than just our cultural life. It is up to each one of us to stand up and protect liberty and justice and equality for everyone.

What would your International Women's Day message be to our readers?

Carry this day forward to every single day of the year. Mentoring a young woman can change her life and each one of us has that capacity.  Be generous - it is a reward unto itself.

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