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Conducting’s glass podium: Female music directors are still rare, but the Northwest has nurtured some

Melinda Bargreen for the Seattle Times

 
When the Seattle Symphony presents its annual “Messiah” Dec. 15-17, there will be a woman on the podium…

 

This is a milestone worth considering. The mere fact that female conductors are a comparative rarity around the world, at a point in history when women instrumentalists are commonplace — female orchestra musicians make up 36 percent of the Seattle Symphony — is an indication of the glacial rate of progress for women in ascending the podium.

 
The Australian-born Ioannides was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of several female conductors cracking the “glass podium” and was termed part of “a new wave of female conductors” by The New York Times.

 

This busy 45-year-old conductor has divided her time among directorships of Symphony Tacoma and the Spartanburg (North Carolina) Philharmonic, plus the family’s East Coast base (her husband, trombonist Scott Hartman, teaches at Yale University). With a 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old twins, and regular guest-conducting trips to Europe, life has been hectic.

 
Ioannides observes that there is “the opportunity now for women to make a lot of progress — even though we still make up only about 7 or 8 percent of orchestral-music directors. There needs to be more. And are we just token females, or are we given the same opportunities and the same pay?”

 

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A heartwarming Sounds of the Season with Tacoma Youth Chorus

The Pantages Theater stage will be brimming with musicians and instruments, including singers from 4th grade through high school, when Symphony Tacoma presents the annual Sounds of the Seasons program, featuring the Tacoma Youth Chorus. A cherished tradition in Tacoma, the pageant-style concert—conducted by Sarah Ioannides and Judy Herrington—features beloved carols, hymns and songs, including “The Little Drummer Boy,” “My Favorite Things,” “Joy to the World” and “Greensleeves,” among many others.

 

The program is studded with other great names and titles in choral and seasonal music: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Dance, Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on “Greensleeves,” Eric Whitacre’s “Glow,” John Rutter’s “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,” Prokofiev’s “Troika,” and Leroy Anderson’s “Christmas Festival.” Symphony Tacoma’s frequent collaborator Bo Ayars has created arrangements of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” and Richard Kountz’s “The Sleigh.” Sarah Ioannides has orchestrated Judy Herrington’s composition for women’s choir, “Stars Tonight,” which will receive its premiere during the performance!

 

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