Marin Alsop was the first woman appointed to head a major orchestra in America (the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) in 2007 — not that long ago. As a female director of bands and associate professor of music at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Emily Threinen is aware of milestones like this one and its importance in music.
"I believe that representation matters and it is important for women and under-represented people to hold positions of leadership and to be treated fairly and equally in all areas of the music industry — and beyond," Threinen says. "Representation in such positions can empower younger individuals to see themselves in similar roles."
While Threinen acknowledges gender imbalance and has experienced bias in her own career, she focuses her energy on striving for excellence through the lens of service."As conductors, I believe our primary goal is to serve composers and their intent to the best of our ability," she says. "As educators, we serve our students, our institutions, our communities and our profession. As advocates, we strive to connect outstanding work beyond our walls."
Threinen understands the importance of having honest, open and sometimes uncomfortable conversations about topics related to women and under-represented people in the industry. "When asked questions about my gender, I tend to shift the question or change the perspective," she says. "This is because in my work, I want people to see me as a conductor and educator foremost. However, I do recognize that identities and experiences are integral to who we are as artists."
Knowing exactly how to address diversity and inclusivity in music programs and classrooms is not easy. "As educators, thinking critically of how we can continue to grow, support and be inclusive of all is essential," she says. "Music rehearsals and classrooms are perfect spaces to unite people of varied identities, backgrounds and cultures to come together for one common goal — to make music."
In addition to acknowledging that there is still work to do regarding representation, Threinen appreciates the groundwork that has already been done. "As a woman in my 40s, I stand on the shoulders of many women who have inspired me and paved paths ahead of me," she says. "I also stand on the shoulders of men who have been instrumental in the advancement of women and under-represented people. We have much to do, but I believe we are in a better place today than we have ever been."
This article originally appeared in the 2019 V4 issue of Yamaha SupportED. To see more back issues, find out about Yamaha resources for music educators, or sign up to be notified when the next issue is available, click here.