The voice and body language of female orchestral conductors: discussion, exploration, and tools for a better understanding.
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Despite considerable research on the relation of gender and leadership, particularly in political studies and business, there is still very little published on the topic in the classical music industry. Conventionally, femininity conjures representations of softness, weakness, even silence, yet these descriptions are not representative of a leader. There is, therefore, a contradiction between femininity and leadership. This document explores at certain issues related to conducting as a leadership position, particularly concerning the female voice and body. An historical analysis of gender representation and perception of the female voice and body helps situate the particular issues experienced by women, particularly in positions of leadership. The goal is to understand the unique difficult position women find themselves in when it comes to conducting. Voices and bodies are not typically gender neutral. They are perceived differently, by both the audience and the conductors themselves. Women have a very narrow margin of action when it comes to exercising leadership through their voice or body. Because women have different bodies than men, and because they are also perceived differently, to copy gestures that work for men might not help women gain confidence in their own capabilities. With this in mind, this document concludes by giving specific exercises and practices for women conductors to gain self-awareness in their own voice and body, so they can express and embody leadership with confidence.