Women Conductors programme – Finding your voice

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Karin Hendrickson reflects on the way the RPS Women Conductors programme gives women a unique voice through musical training.

There are some avenues of life that cause us to become soldiers for the generations that follow us. I think of the women who first marched and demonstrated so valiantly in order to gain the right to vote – I believe that they understood it wasn’t just so that their voice could be heard during their lifetime, but so that every following woman in their own lifetime could be heard, as well.

In my work as a conductor, I have a unique way of sharing my voice. In the performance, I’m the single person on stage NOT making any sound – yet through physical gesture my voice is perhaps symbolically the loudest, and the most uniquely displayed.


It’s this unique way of ‘having a voice’ that has caused the RPS Women Conductors programme to take notice of a certain disparity among the younger ranks of women. We live in a society that is incredibly vocal – your voice can be online, it can be heard, it can be read, yes – it can even be ‘seen’, and yes, it can insidiously still be silenced. And for younger women, living in a tumultuous time of peer-to-peer judgement, ever changing socio-economic systems, and growing up during a time where a phone or computer with predictive text can type your sentences for you – how do you learn to express your own creativity, your own voice, confidently, with all of these elements in play?

The workshops we run for younger women are therefore not just about conducting. We begin our workshop from the standpoint of what it is to ‘be a conductor’, but the total workshop experience is really about helping these young women explore and develop their own ‘voice’ of confidence – to develop an awareness not just of what they are ‘saying’ with their vocal chords, but also how they are ‘saying’ it with their bodies, their posture, their gestures, and their face and eyes.

The workshops include many elements of physical posture and movement. We explore confidence, and how that translates to expressing who you are as an individual and a creative human being. By the end, we also will have explored physical conducting and musicianship. But the final goal is not to end up with a room of confident young female conductors – the end goal is to end up with a room full of young women more confident and prepared to be their unique selves.

The RPS Women Conductors programme curates a range of conducting experiences, from introducing novice female musicians to conducting, to helping full-time, professional female musicians who want to transition into conducting as a profession gain valuable experience. But our work in schools takes on another element, that of helping to develop confidence in young women. We may end up with some great conductors along the way, but we’re first interested in making sure young women everywhere have the confidence to be themselves, with their own voice.

This year we’re sponsoring the RPS Women Conductors programme in order to enable more women across the UK to have access to these training and development opportunities.

Written by Karin Hendrickson as part of RPS’ artistic partnership with ABRSM


Live Music is…

RPS Executive Director, Rosie Johnson ponders what makes live music, and the RPS Music Awards, so special.

…contemplative, challenging, restorative, shared.

I nearly missed out on classical music. From a very early age my parents regularly took me to services at Canterbury Cathedral where my elder brothers were choristers. I was intoxicated by the music that I heard them sing, hugely impressed by the ritual and, let’s be honest, the idea of boarding school.

I just assumed that I would follow in their footsteps. When it was explained that I didn’t fit the brief, I came to a simple and, from my perspective, rather devastating conclusion: classical music was for boys.

It is easy to feel excluded from classical music….


….sometimes it’s the language used to describe it, or musical one-upmanship, where those without an encyclopaedic knowledge of repertoire or performance history are deemed unable to fully appreciate what they hear. And sometimes, there are more fundamental barriers: economic, social, cultural, disability… or (and it seems surprising to be writing this in the 21st century) being born a girl. And yet, music is the most embracing of art forms, and live music, by offering bespoke, yet collegiate experiences to both audiences and performers, is the most inclusive of the lot.

The winners of this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards will be announced on Tuesday 9 May. This awards ceremony is the only time each year that we celebrate the transformative, joyous experience of live music in the UK, in all its variety; those wondrous fleeting moments that are gone in a minute, but linger in the mind forever. And it’s this transient quality, a uniqueness that comes from unrepeatable listening, that sets live performance apart from recorded music. Recordings can capture that moment in time, but by allowing us to repeat it, over and over, a little of the magic of ‘liveness’ is lost….”

Read the full blog on BBC Music Magazine

More about the RPS Music Awards

#LiveMusicIs on twitter

Clare Hammond on her Experience with the Philip Langridge Mentoring Scheme

Renowned tenor Philip Langridge was a staunch member and Council member of the Royal Philharmonic Society until his untimely death in March 2010. Endlessly positive and energetic, and passionate about communication through performance, he often spoke about what the RPS could do to extend its support for musicians entering the profession.

At Philip’s suggestion the RPS began discussions with the Young Classical Artists Trust (another organisation of which he was a trustee) to explore ways in which established musicians could pass on their wisdom and experience to those just starting out in the profession. The seeds of an idea for mentoring musicians were sewn and the RPS and YCAT launched the Philip Langridge Mentoring Scheme in autumn 2010.

Pianist Clare Hammond describes her time on the mentoring scheme…


After nearly two and a half years, I have come to the end of my mentorship with French pianist Anne Queffélec which I have found fulfilling and inspiring in equal measure. I am very grateful that the Philip Langridge Mentoring Scheme exists. Most performers spend an enormous amount of time in higher education, and I was no exception. I left the Guildhall School of Music & Drama after completing a Masters and a Doctorate of Musical Arts in 2011 at the ripe old age of 26. Although I continued to have sporadic coaching with different musicians, I felt I needed the time to develop my own voice, without structured guidance. After three years flying solo, however, there were many issues, both musical and personal, that I wanted to discuss with someone who knew me well.

Fortunately, I learnt about the PLMS at exactly the right time. I had been to Anne Queffélec a couple of times for coaching by this point and I knew that she was someone I would like to work with further. She combines a thorough grasp of the practical aspects of playing with astonishing musical imagination and flair. Her performances never fail to surprise and invariably reveal unsuspected possibilities in the works that she plays.

At this point, I tended to specialise in 20th and 21st-century music and had always found repertoire by core composers more challenging. While Anne performs music by a wide range of composers, her repertoire centres on the classics. She was able to explain concepts in Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Chopin that I had understood objectively but had never really managed to put into practice. I am now far less tentative when playing this music and my performances are, as a result, far more engaging and communicative.

On a personal level, the mentorship came at exactly the right time. Establishing oneself as a performer after finishing at a conservatoire is extremely challenging. Anne has helped to give me the musical conviction and determination necessary to do this. I have also recently had a baby and the chance to discuss this with a female pianist who has two children of her own was invaluable.

A mentorship of this kind is of particular importance to musicians setting out on their career after formal education because it can be tailor-made to suit them. By this stage, most people have an idea of the kind of artist they want to become, and what their fields of interest might be. It is particularly helpful to have a mentor’s guidance and advice while these ideas crystallise and take form. I am extremely grateful that I had access to this kind of support which has been of immeasurable help to me at a transitional stage in both my artistic and personal life.

Keep up with Clare’s work on her website clarehammond.com and find out more about the our Mentoring Scheme here