'Simple Gifts' Aaron Copland
Is there equality in US orchestras in 2014? Composer and blogger Suby Raman has been looking into the gender make-up of America’s top 20 orchestras. In this series of infographics he explores proportions of male and female musicians in each section and the gender split in leadership positions. Have a look at his findings: they are eye-opening
On average, American orchestras are made up of 63% men, 37% women. Only one of the orchestras Raman analysed had more female than male musicians – St Louis Symphony. Here's a closer look at the gender split in orchestras A-L.
Raman looked at the gender split in America’s top 20 orchestras, taking in 1,833 musicians. Here's the data from orchestras beginning with M onwards.
In the string sections, things start to look a little different. Women dominate in violin sections, where 59% are female, and almost half of viola players are women. By contrast, women dominate in harp sections, where they make up 95% of the musicians.
In woodwind sections, there are more female than male flautists, but men dominate on all other instruments.
Brass sections are almost exclusively male – 97% of trumpet players are male, for example. Horn players are more split, though – almost a third of musicians are female.
In the keyboard (which could include piano, harpsichord, pianoforte or celeste for example) section, the split is exactly 50/50. Unlike the percussion section…
This is where things become more interesting. Raman looks at the leaders of each section. As Raman says in his blog “Spoiler alert: there’s a pattern.” This graph shows the gender balance of the concertmaster role (sometimes called leader) compared with the gender balance of the violin section overall.
Raman then goes on to analyse the leader/section split of each string section. In each case (apart from harpists), there are more male than female leaders. This is especially striking for violinists, where the sections are otherwise made up of more women than men.
The pattern for violinists is repeated in flute sections: women dominate on the flute generally, but 57% of leaders of this section are men. Across the woodwind sections, men are more likely to be in the role of leader than women.
Men dominate not just in the brass sections but also in the brass leader roles.
The gender split of percussion and keyboard leaders tend to reflect the gender split of their sections.
Raman then looked in more detail at each section of the orchestra, starting with the conductor. It will probably come as no surprise to anyone that this role is dominated by men. Marin Alsop is the only woman to hold the post of music director at one of these orchestras, and men still dominate overall, in such roles as guest conductor, principal conductor.
The problem isn't restricted to orchestral musicians. Have a look at this graph: it charts the percentage of operas composed by men and the percentage composed by women that have been performed at the Metropolitan Opera. Yep. That's a big fat 0% next to 'female composers'.