Skip to main content

Update browser for a secure TSO experience

It looks like you may be using a web browser version that we don't support. Make sure you're using the most recent version of your browser, or try using of these supported browsers, to get the full TSO experience: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge.


Gustavo Gimeno mentoring a female conductor

Balance Behind the Baton

Addressing gender inequity through the Women in Musical Leadership program
March 22, 2023

For almost half a century, the TSO has been committed to cultivating the next generation of orchestral musicians through the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra. But did you know that the TSYO isn’t the only ongoing talent-development program we’re involved with?

In his article “The DNA of the TSO”, recently published in smART Magazine, Arlan Vriens addresses the question of representation in the classical music industry and what the TSO is doing to broaden it. He cites our “growing work with emerging and under-represented composers [as] a model for widening the orchestra’s circles of inclusion and musician development”—and he also touches on our association with the Women in Musical Leadership national conducting fellowship.

This vital initiative, of which we’re incredibly proud to be the Lead Orchestral Partner, is led by our friends at Tapestry Opera, and is designed to support emerging Canadian women and non-binary conductors and music directors—a segment of artists who have historically been subject to gender inequity (according to Orchestras Canada, as of January 2022, Canadian women conductors make up less than 3% of all musical leadership positions in major Canadian orchestras with budgets over $5 million). 

Since the program’s inception in 2021, the three-year fellowship has provided participants with the opportunity to assist, observe, conduct, and gain experience across a diverse range of organizations in symphonic, chamber, operatic, and contemporary repertoire, equipping them with the professional experience and training necessary to conduct anywhere in the world.

At the TSO, the fellows are involved in a range of artistic and administrative activities. They attend staff and committee meetings, observe rehearsals led by Music Director Gustavo Gimeno—a Conducting Advisor with the program—and guest conductors, and take part in workshops. Additionally, we connect them with visiting composers, artist managers, publishers, and other key industry players to help them build their networks.

“Our participation in the Women in Musical Leadership program is a first step, and a declaration of intent,” says Music Director Gustavo Gimeno to Vriens. “Officially it’s only existed for two years—during the pandemic, no less. It’s less developed than the composition programs, but I want it to grow. Right now, I coach the participants’ conducting while they conduct pianists playing orchestral reductions, but in the future I want to get them on stage with the TSO.” This future is right around the corner, as plans are currently underway for the fellows to take part in master classes with the full orchestra in the spring. Stay tuned for details!

As we set our sights on Year 101—a bold new beginning for your TSO—we believe that, by increasing the representation of women on the podium, we can inspire more women to enter the conducting field. As the saying goes, “If you can see it, you can be it.”

Learn more about the Women in Musical Leadership program.