Women in music
with JENNIFER PAULL
'I remember getting on one of those New York double-decker buses and
riding around for five hours, thinking of my future. Should I take a safe
job as a concertmaster of an orchestra? I had an offer. I didn't know what
to do. Finally I said to myself, "Dammit, I want to play!. ..."
- Isaac Stern (1920-2001) quoted in The Times, 1984
Although I studied in London during the first half of the 1960s when
the world was being shaken into a different reality through the Beatles,
the pill, the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, the role of women in musical
life, or indeed many other fields, was certainly not what it has become
I had attended one of the most intellectual girls' Grammar Schools
in my home city of Liverpool. We were still instructed 'to work hard and
get a good job before marriage'. After tying the knot, more women stayed
at home than continuied with their careers. In retrospect, the heart bleeds
even more for Fanny Mendelssohn!
Going on to study at the Royal College of Music in London, I found my
profession to be little different. Women could play a string instrument
here or there. There was always a shortage of good string players! The harp
didn't count in this logic any more than did conductors. The first
were mostly women and the second mostly men. As an oboist, only two orchestras
opened their doors. The BBC as a public institution set an admirable example.
The other, the English Chamber Orchestra was run by Ursula Strebi, Philip
Jones' wife, who came from Switzerland. Philip Jones had formed an
outstanding brass ensemble, a veritable institution of superb performers.
Copyright © 4 January 2002
Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland
JENNIFER PAULL'S AMORIS INTERNATIONAL
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