To all my sister-conductors and my fellow Maestras
She was tired. Tired of being belittled and tired of being dismissed because she was a woman. Her abilities were taken for granted because she made it look easy. She worked hard, harder than her male colleagues but it was never acknowledged. She was tired of petty and silly games and yet, they kept happening, no matter how she behaved.
She was disciplined. Disciplined in her professional life and disciplined in her personal life. She practiced and did score study every day whether she felt like it or not. She accomplished a lot every day because she had to. And others expected her to do so because she made it look easy. It wasn’t.
She was frazzled. Frazzled at the sheer amount of busy work dumped on her because she didn’t complain. There was never a doubt she would get it done but often she felt used. Why did she do it? She supposed as a woman, she worried the-powers-that-be would use any excuse to get rid of her. So, she stretched herself thin just to accomplish what others could do but didn’t because she felt she had no choice.
She was compassionate. Compassionate toward her students and her accompanists and her musicians and anyone who worked with her or for her. She was often called wimpy because of her compassion but when she had to be firm, she was called a witch* while her male colleagues were celebrated for being tough and uncompromising.
She was guilty. Guilty for imagining trying to be a partner, trying to be a parent, trying to be a daughter and a sister as well as trying to be a conductor would be easy. She finally understood why others never married or never wanted children. She had believed it would be different for her, but it wasn’t. Her family almost always came first but on the rare instances her career did, she felt guilty. And others in all aspects of her life made her feel guilty, whether that was their intention or not.
She was a role model. A role model who never wanted to be a role model. She wanted to conduct and did everything she could to make that happen. She scratched and clawed her way to the middle; all she could hope for at the beginning of her career. Young female conductors wondered why she seemed to have settled for being in the middle. They believed she had let them down by not fighting harder. But they never understood how hard she had fought. They would understand one day in the not-too-distant future.
She was overlooked. Overlooked when it came to the bigger jobs or the better jobs or the nicer ensembles. Overlooked when it came to respect or acknowledgment for things she did that others were not able to do. The powers-that-be saw her as one thing, and one thing only but that was not nearly everything she was capable of doing.
She was irritated. Irritated that in her last job interview she was asked again where she saw herself in five years. To her it was an overt but subtle way of asking if she planned to stick around as her kids matured. She believed it to be some sort of code to find out. She doubted male candidates were asked the same question.
She was flabbergasted. Flabbergasted that she, again, was being criticized for what she chose to wear when she conducted. If she wore black, she was criticized for being too traditional. If she wore another color, she was criticized for not wearing black. Too loose or too tight, too sexy or too bland, too traditional or too kooky, too long or too short; often diametrically opposed criticisms about the same outfit. Her butt looked big, her heels were too high and why didn’t she wear slacks? And the one time she wore a woman’s tuxedo, the blue-haired ladies went crazy!
But she is content. Content with her life, content with her family, and content with her profession. And while she is tired and disciplined and frazzled and compassionate and guilty and a role model and overlooked and irritated and flabbergasted and many other things too, there is only one reason she continues to do what she does—the Music.
*Another word which rhymes with “witch”