Passing the baton: A maestro and young conductor riff on changing classical music industry | Michigan Radio

Passing the baton: A maestro and young conductor riff on changing classical music industry

Dec 11, 2018

When you bring two people from opposite ends of the same career path together, chances are they’ll have plenty to talk about.

Stateside's ongoing Work in Progress series aims to do just that by featuring conversations between someone just starting out in a particular field and someone who is reaching the end of their professional career. 

Leonard Slatkin is Music Director Laureate of the Detroit Symphony, and conductor Chelsea Gallo is pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Michigan. 

Although there are more opportunities available to women in music than ever before, they still face challenges that men in that profession do not. Slatkin asked Gallo if she had yet felt any pressure to “be better” because of that double standard.

Gallo said yes, she had felt that pressure, partly because there are far fewer women than men in the conducting world. 

“Because while 95 percent of the conductors are men, if some of them aren’t great, that doesn’t affect the entire perception of the male conductor. If even some of us are out there, and we’re not excelling, and not achieving, and not doing the best we can, it’d be so easy for us to slide down the slope of ‘Oh well women conductors are — they’re a novelty,’” Gallo explained.

Slatkin voiced his support for finding ways to encourage more women and people with marginalized identities to get involved with music at an earlier age.

“I think people like you who potentially can become role models—somebody who succeeds. And somebody looks and says ‘Oh, she can do that, maybe I can do that,'” Slatkin told Gallo. 

Listen above to hear more about Slatkin’s introduction to music, how his background has shaped his understanding of success, and how the two conductors differ in perspective when it comes to conducting unfamiliar orchestras.

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