Women in Brass Bands

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Anyone who really thinks that there is a problem with sexism in brass bands might like to read this:

http://www.osborne-conant.org/ladies.htm#problem

[Warning: there's a lot to read ... ]
Thanks for bringing this case to the thread, not a quick read but a very interesting one. One thing that I think the ladies should take from it is the supportive stance and action of many good men in bringing about a just settlement for lady concerned.
 
Last edited:
I think it really depends on whether you think there is a problem or not, and whether or not something should be done to 'fix' it.

Positive discrimination makes me cringe, but it might be worthwhile...

I remember something on the BBC recently about a women-only conducting course. At first the idea made me cringe, but then, maybe it is worthwhile? Just in the sense that to put yourself 'out there' as an only woman (or in a minority among men) can feel awkward, but if it's all-women then somehow that seems more friendly.

In music men and women normally compete on an equal footing (fairly or unfairly) unlike sport where it's recognised a man has more muscle mass than a woman, and watching a man inevitably win over a woman just isn't fun. So I'm not sure I see much mileage in men-only and women-only bands and competitions, like football. Or maybe it's that I like the men-and-women balance of my band.

However, there could be an element of competitions where at least 1 piece must be conducted by a female conductor, or feature a female soloist. It would be controversial, seen as patronising, unnecessary. But if it was accepted and carried through I'll bet that 10 years down the line, we'd see more women in prominent places.
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Thanks for bringing this case to the thread, not a quick read but a very interesting one. One thing that I think the ladies should take from it is the supportive stance and action of many good men in bringing about a just settlement for lady concerned.
What I mostly took from it was that Sergiu Celibidache was a most enormous ********, and an expert manipulator egomaniac who kept a whole orchestra and the officials of the city that employed them and him wrapped around his sexist-to-the-bone little finger.

There were more bad problems with the situation than simply that (those who enabled cannot be let off so easily as that), but that was fairly clearly the biggest one.
 

Bbmad

Active Member
Thanks for bringing this case to the thread, not a quick read but a very interesting one. One thing that I think the ladies should take from it is the supportive stance and action of many good men in bringing about a just settlement for lady concerned.
Too long, did not read.
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
A precis then:

In 1980 the Munich Philharmonic selected a female trombonist to join them via blind audition.
They, apparently at the instigation of the conductor, then harassed her both informally and formally, making all kinds of laughably false allegations of incompetence in a legal context.
She pursued the allowed legal redress of this situation while still having to face up to this regular (un)professional harassment.
This lasted until 1992, when she both won her case and left the orchestra for a better paid academic position.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
A precis then:

In 1980 the Munich Philharmonic selected a female trombonist to join them via blind audition.
They, apparently at the instigation of the conductor, then harassed her both informally and formally, making all kinds of laughably false allegations of incompetence in a legal context.
She pursued the allowed legal redress of this situation while still having to face up to this regular (un)professional harassment.
This lasted until 1992, when she both won her case and left the orchestra for a better paid academic position.
That's certainly a taste of it but not the points that I wanted to bring out. I've not re-read the piece now but as I recall:
the last part(s) of the audition was not blind and all the Philharmonic's players voted to accept her on ability; her playing was not critised by her male peers and some supported her despite what might have been a hazard to their continued employment; her husband stood behind her throughout and actively supported her; her new solicitor (an earlier one was 'crooked') was (I believe) male and a male judge was instumental in ruling in her favour.

It isn't a nice tale but clearly many men wanted to and did stick up for a woman's rights. Some will find it a tale of injustice but I think it should inspire people instead.
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
It isn't a nice tale but clearly many men wanted to and did stick up for a woman's rights. Some will find it a tale of injustice but I think it should inspire people instead.
There seemed to be plenty of instances of fellow orchestra members (not only male, also female - but mostly male, by the nature of the situation) expressing personal sympathy but then not being willing to rock their own boat by offering her tangible support. Perhaps we read it with different eyes on. What it inspires me to do is to hope that almost all those that were involved are no longer able to influence such matters. When bigotry goes so deep that those expressing it can hide behind an official facade, it is rare for those expressing it to give it up at any meaningful level, even when they are made to contemplate the error of their ways. People are not in general good at re-evaluating deeply held beliefs once past a certain age.
 
There seemed to be plenty of instances of fellow orchestra members (not only male, also female - but mostly male, by the nature of the situation) expressing personal sympathy but then not being willing to rock their own boat by offering her tangible support. Perhaps we read it with different eyes on. What it inspires me to do is to hope that almost all those that were involved are no longer able to influence such matters. When bigotry goes so deep that those expressing it can hide behind an official facade, it is rare for those expressing it to give it up at any meaningful level, even when they are made to contemplate the error of their ways. People are not in general good at re-evaluating deeply held beliefs once past a certain age.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
There seemed to be plenty of instances of fellow orchestra members (not only male, also female - but mostly male, by the nature of the situation) expressing personal sympathy but then not being willing to rock their own boat by offering her tangible support. Perhaps we read it with different eyes on. What it inspires me to do is to hope that almost all those that were involved are no longer able to influence such matters. When bigotry goes so deep that those expressing it can hide behind an official facade, it is rare for those expressing it to give it up at any meaningful level, even when they are made to contemplate the error of their ways. People are not in general good at re-evaluating deeply held beliefs once past a certain age.
It seems we did read the article with different eyes but that is no bad thing if we can later share views. The situation of players and officials in the Orchestra was difficult and perhaps one needs to have been in insecure employment with bills to pay and family to support to appreciate their problems. I'm not sure about your point on deeply held beliefs and age, being old with a long held view doesn't make you wrong but it might make you unfashionable - of course I'm not refering Sergiu Celibidache who I too think was a most enormous ******** .
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
I was just pointing out that to be in a position of authority in a municipal orchestra in a place the size of Munich, one would expect to have reached middle age. Given that the whole orchestral management structure seemed to be complicit in doing Abbie Conant down, I am not optimistic that those that were doing the doing down would ever recant their thinking to any significant degree...

It's a side point. Perhaps it wasn't worth making, or was too distracting to be sensible to make.

Also:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Yes, precisely. This was exactly my take-home from it.

 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Some some statsy digging...

To recap:

A start on some stats... Here are the gender ratios for the top 10 4BR ranked UK bands, as taken from player lists (or in their absence recent photos) on their websites. Principal seats are defined as Top 'man', Sop, Flugel, Solo Horn, 1st Baritone, Solo Euph, 1st Trombone, principal Eb Bass, BBb Bass, and Percussion, where defined.

BandMFRatioM principalsF principalsPrincipals ratio
Cory24583:17100100:0
Black Dyke28488:128280:20
Tredegar26487:139190:10
Foden's23777:238280:20
Grimethorpe27293:7100100:0
B&R23388:128280:20
Flowers24486:148280:20
Fairey24583:178280:20
CMFC20969:314640:60
Leyland21678:227278:22
One question that occurs to me deals with whether we see this bias continued further down the contesting tree, and whether if it is, we see it so strongly. In comparison, here are the equivalent figures for bands ranked 50 UK places lower:

BandMFRatioM principalsF principalsPrincipals ratio
Ashton19966:345455:45
Derwent28488:129190:10
C of Bradford221265:355455:45
Llwydcoed20871:298189:11
Downshire24973:277278:22
Newstead151158:428189:11
Felling19483:177278:22
B'burn & Darwen21775:257278:22
1st Old Boys23582:189190:10
Aveley11569:315183:17

These are bands of solidly consistent championship section quality or close to it, but not bands whose names often turn up in the same company as the first list. A couple I had to estimate numbers from online photographs of gigs - I hope I didn't put anyone in the wrong category while squinting at a half-glimpsed head through a photo of a band in formation!

So adding all the numbers up, we see the following overall statistics for these two different tranches of championship contesting bands:
MFRatioM principalsF principalsPrincipal ratioBands with greater proportion of male principals than male members
Bands ranked UK 1-102404983:17801981:194/10
Bands ranked UK 51-602027473:27701979:217/10

So it seems that there is still quite a gender imbalance between band members further down the championship section when viewed over the whole of the UK, but that that imbalance is not as strong as it is at the highest level. More bands would make for better statistics, if anyone wants to dig further. Hearteningly, there seems no obvious evidence that these bands tend to favour male principals, when considered against their overall gender ratios.

Another interesting answer would involve relating these ratios to different geographical areas. It is my feeling that we would see more imbalance in areas where bands tended to be strongly seen as a social outlet for people doing dangerous and physical industrial jobs such as mining, i.e. men.
 
Last edited:

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Glad you posted that. Googled it and it's from Edmund Burke - education is a wonderful thing. I spotted a few other good quotes from him like these two:

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
“He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.”

Anyway, enough of the diversion(s) and back to the OP.
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
And while I'm here, let's try the same exercise for bands another 50 UK places lower:

BandMFRatioM principalsF principalsPrincipals ratio
Sandhurst24583:179190:10
Hebden Bridge121152:484450:50
Mossley18675:259 (?)0 (?)100:0 (?)
Longridge221069:315456:44
Silk18967:335271:29
Kinneil19968:327370:30
Cwmaman151256:446460:40
Sherborne16576:245271:29
St. Austell191163:377278:22
Shepherd Group20871:29???

MFRatioM principalsF principalsPrincipal ratioPrincipals more male than ratio?
Bands ranked UK 1-102404983:17801981:194/10
Bands ranked UK 51-602027473:27701979:217/10
Bands ranked UK 101-1101838668:32572272:286/9

So we seem to see growing female participation as we head to the boundary between championship and 1st sections, though I haven't yet seen a band in this series of little surveys that is majority female - Hebden Bridge come closest so far of those examined. The number of bands with disproportionaly male principals seems to be growing - hopefully this is just a statistical artefact due to a small sample.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
I was just pointing out that to be in a position of authority in a municipal orchestra in a place the size of Munich, one would expect to have reached middle age. Given that the whole orchestral management structure seemed to be complicit in doing Abbie Conant down, I am not optimistic that those that were doing the doing down would ever recant their thinking to any significant degree...

It's a side point. Perhaps it wasn't worth making, or was too distracting to be sensible to make.
It is a side point but worth clarification as it does impact significantly on the issue, I detect a degree of ageism in the associated posts and I am sure that is (from you) unintended. Middle aged and older women and men have made and are capable of very large changes of opinion, they review their ideas and then confirm or change them according to the evidence they’ve found. Education, in some form or other, continues for that age group and many grasp it, indeed the younger folk with their ‘modern’ ideas know less than they think and are near the start of an education process that will shape them throughout life.

The positive role of older men, from traditional male dominated backgrounds, should not be forgotten. For example the old man (60’s when I knew him) who started my home City’s ‘Boys Band’ chose to change it to a 'Youth Band' (mixed gender) and actively supported the girls. I’ve also observed men with less than gender equal views slowly review and shift them over the years (decades even) as they see discrimination against their wives, sisters and daughters. With that in mind there should, IMHO, be hope for those complicit in doing Abbie Conant down.
 

owain_s

Member
It is a side point but worth clarification as it does impact significantly on the issue, I detect a degree of ageism in the associated posts and I am sure that is (from you) unintended. Middle aged and older women and men have made and are capable of very large changes of opinion, they review their ideas and then confirm or change them according to the evidence they’ve found. Education, in some form or other, continues for that age group and many grasp it, indeed the younger folk with their ‘modern’ ideas know less than they think and are near the start of an education process that will shape them throughout life.
There's a hint of the opposite ageism creeping in here: many older people formed their 'modern' points of view long ago, while others fail to change at all no matter how strong the evidence against them. Similarly, you seem to suggest that younger people's points of view are less valid, purely on an ad hominem basis.

The positive role of older men, from traditional male dominated backgrounds, should not be forgotten. For example the old man (60’s when I knew him) who started my home City’s ‘Boys Band’ chose to change it to a 'Youth Band' (mixed gender) and actively supported the girls. I’ve also observed men with less than gender equal views slowly review and shift them over the years (decades even) as they see discrimination against their wives, sisters and daughters.
These, however, are excellent points which I can't disagree with at all!
 

tallyman

Member
Black Dyke Band have just signed a women on 2nd cornet number 3. Women must be really well thought of in elite banding if they're inventing new seats for them.
 

Vegasbound

Active Member
Anyone else hear the report on radio 4 this morning? about how the Metropolitan Opera Orch in NY brought in blind auditions...initially to combat sexism, and a good interview with the 1st trombone Weston Sprott one of the first black trombonists to occupy a major orchestral chair, he is a big supporter of blind auditions, they even use heavy carpet on the floor so the pannel can't pick out a females footsteps.

Against the idea was the manager of the LSO, he was against because as he pointed out that if a female or minority player won the audition they still are given a trial and that is when any anti feelings will be made known as per Dave's posts earlier.
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
It is a side point but worth clarification as it does impact significantly on the issue, I detect a degree of ageism in the associated posts and I am sure that is (from you) unintended. Middle aged and older women and men have made and are capable of very large changes of opinion, they review their ideas and then confirm or change them according to the evidence they’ve found. Education, in some form or other, continues for that age group and many grasp it, indeed the younger folk with their ‘modern’ ideas know less than they think and are near the start of an education process that will shape them throughout life.

The positive role of older men, from traditional male dominated backgrounds, should not be forgotten. For example the old man (60’s when I knew him) who started my home City’s ‘Boys Band’ chose to change it to a 'Youth Band' (mixed gender) and actively supported the girls. I’ve also observed men with less than gender equal views slowly review and shift them over the years (decades even) as they see discrimination against their wives, sisters and daughters. With that in mind there should, IMHO, be hope for those complicit in doing Abbie Conant down.
Ah, I wasn't intending to spark personal needle here. Just a simple observation that it gets progressively harder to bring oneself to re-evaluate one's views as one moves through life. Is that controversial? There are as I understand it a couple of reasons, the first physical, the second psychological (though I don't know which is the stronger effect): 1) The brain is more plastic when young; it becomes harder to create new connections with age; 2) As you go on in life, you work out how things are in the world, and relate each new experience to the worldview that has come to seem correct to you. The later on in life a lesson comes, the more mental refiling is necessary to be done to properly accommodate lessons that go against aspects of that worldview. I repeat my question - is that controversial? I certainly don't think so. Aging brings both more perspective and the challenges of having acquired that greater perspective. I fully hope to be wiser in 20 years time than I am today! But also expect to be more mentally inconvenienced from time to time by the need to integrate new information.

Regarding the matter in hand, these were people who had built and maintained their worldviews strongly enough in defiance of what was clearly a new societal norm that they felt able to challenge that norm at great length and with great cynicism. I have little hope of ways genuinely having been mended. But if we really want to know the answer, the events were concluded 22 years ago. I expect subsequent views are out there on the internet somewhere. I've had a brief look without luck, but I daresay there's something out there. Or one could always ask the people in question... But by this point, we are definitely going above and beyond to resolve a side point in a brass band forum internet thread...

There's no silly enthusiasm for young vs old here, which I seem to detect a slight hint of being admonished for. If you like, I could point out how bizarre I find it that of our current generation of political leaders, none have yet graduated from their 40s?
 
Top