Nordic Choir
Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

What do you call a female Chorusmaster?



Here is a compilation of replies (more interesting and controversial than I
would ever have guessed!....) to the following inquiry:

Is there a feminine term for "Chorusmaster?" For use on poster and program?
In conversation one refers to the person who is preparing the chorus, but
how does that get boiled down to a one word title? Does a woman simply go
with "...master?"

1) ...the correct term IS "Chorusmaster." We had a similar discussion with
the "concertmaster" for an orchestra. Some people prefer to use
"concertmistress" however this is an incorrect term.
Ssomeone who is adept at something is a "master" of that action. One
receives a "master's" degree, not a "mistress's" degree! The word,
"Chorusmaster" is unisex. The word, mastER is NOT a masculine term. Such
words that end in "or" are masculine .... such as "authOR," "actOR." To
belabor such a gender issue on so trivial a matter is futile. It is still
linguisticaly acceptable to use the masculine form in English (albeit
politicaly incorrect . . . but then again, what would you call a chorus of
all female voices, a "chora" since the "-us" ending would imply masculinity)
whether we like it or not.

2) Well, you could do a take-off on "Master of the Choruses" and be known
as "Director of the Chorus." Just a thought. : -)

3) How about Chorusmistress?

4) I believe it is common usage that the principal first violinist of an
orchestra is the Concertmaster, whether male or female. A few tried
concertmistress, but it didn't seem to stick anywhere I've been. I have
never heard the analogous term, "chorusmistress" used for anyone anywhere to
designate a female chorusmaster. I have seen the term "conductress," but
only in masonic settings, which are not exacty mainstream in their
terminology. I know I'm not female, but is "chorusmaster" really that bad an
option? Otherwise, perhaps you need to use more than one word:
Josephine Smith, Choral Director
Josephine Smith, Choral Conductor
Chorus prepared by Josephine Smith

5a) Sad.

5b) my reply: Succint.

5c) reply to my reply: :-)

6) On the whole, master seems to suffice. If you were to use "mistress" for
example, I think that it would sound pretentious. If the masculine gender
thing bothers you, and it may, perhaps you would consider trying something
like: The Boston Symphony Chorus, prepared by Ruth McKendree Treen.

7) Maestra di cappella?

8) Maestra di coro?

9) Concertmasters are both genders, and so are chorusmasters. As an old
colleague used to csay, a concertmistress is quite another thing altogether!

10) I dealt with this a number of years ago when I did my first bit of
opera chorus work. I told them I was not the Chorusmistress because I was
NOBODY's mistress. :-) I just use Chorusmaster, same as we use Director
instead of Directress.

11) When I have seen Ms. Hillis' [Margaret Hillis, Chicago Symphony Chorus]
name, it just said CS Chorus, MH, director

12) Why not simply "Director?"

13) This was decided long ago for orchestral musicians. A female
concertmaster is still a concertmaster, not a concertmistress.

14) I would think, although I don't know for sure, that the same
convention would work very comfortably as a non-gender-specific term. Of
course if you're having a feminist or PC problem, feel free to make up your
own term. No one will mind.

15) Actually, I believe Italian secular choral directors would be referred
to as Maesto di Coro. You would then be Maestra.

16) I am an organist and choirmaster and proud of it. Don't get hung up on
contemporary political correctness. Be proud to carry the title
kapellmeister that Bach himself bore!! And chorusmaster is the same thing.
Our chorus master is female. No one has ever even hinted that the title
should not be the same as historically correct. When titles become more
important than content, there is a big problem. I detest "chair", too.
I'm not a piece of furniture. Tinkering with language like this reminds me
of Nixon's calling a tax increase a "revenue enhancer." . . and we all
know how that ended up.

17) If the intent is to dispense with the "master" portion of the term
because it implies "masculinity" (or more common buzz words or
objection), then it would be worth considering that "manhole cover" did
not degenerate into "personhole cover" (like the often abused use of
"folk" as a substitute for "mankind"), but has commonly been replaced
with "utility cover." (Athough I've never considered "folkhole cover"
except just now, perhaps best used in relationship to certain
songwriters I know.) Simply step outside the "gender-modification" game
and just use a different term that is neutral to start with: "Chorus
Director.".........Most major symphony orchestras use "chorus director" or
"choral director" or "director of choruses" even though the individual only
prepares the chorus for the concert to be conducted by someone else.
It's pretty darn standard. This IS what the "major" American
organizations do.

18) Just for the record, I prefer Chorusmaster. I will be preparing the
chorus for the Utah Opera production of Madama Butterfly this spring, and I
don't want ANYBODY calling me a Chorusmistress!

19) When we refer to the director of a band or orchestra, we
don't usually refer to them as "bandmaster" or "orchestra conductor." It's
"director" or "conductor" -- period. And it's 100 percent politically
correct! So, why not the same with a choir? ..... Given that male and
female actors all refer to themselves as "actors" these days, I would agree
with the "chorusmaster" designation you have chosen over "chorusmistress,"
which is a bit dated. (I think it went out with "chairwoman" and
"headmistress.")

20) How about Choral Director? There is no gender attached to it.

My sincere thanks to all who took time to reply.

Ruth McKendree Treen
Chatham, Massachusetts
rtreen(a)mediaone.net