Classical music very rarely makes the front page of any newspaper but today The Times here in the UK, features a large photograph of Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, the newly appointed Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
There has been speculation for months about which candidates were in the running for the job and several fairly well known names (all men) were bandied about as leading contenders.
However, several months ago Norman Lebrecht on his blogsite “Slippedisc” suggested that one of Britain’s leading orchestras was about to appoint a woman as musical director. In the discussion column someone wrote “it is the worst kept secret in Birmingham that Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is the preferred choice of the orchestra.”
Everything then went quiet on the subject and some speculated that it would be a massive gamble to appoint not only a woman (shock horror!!!!) but one who had never led a major orchestra. However, she had built a formidable reputation as an Assistant Conductor at the LA Philharmonic and her reputation in Europe was being recognised.
The CBSO have a track record of taking young and / or untried music directors in the past with tremendous success, think Simon Rattle, Sakhari Oramo and more recently Andris Nelsons (who the Berlin Philharmonic recently wanted), all of whom have turned into major conductors with international reputations.
So hats off to the CBSO for this very imaginative appointment, and hopefully Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will just be in the vanguard of more women being recognised and given opportunities in what is still a male dominated profession.
It is important to mention Marin Alsop who for years fought to build a reputation for herself ( and acceptance of women) and get opportunities to conduct major orchestras. It should be noted also that it was another British orchestra that appointed her as their music director, the Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra, with whom she developed an excellent reputation.
I look forward to visiting Birmingham when Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla takes up residence to hear her and the orchestra perform. I will be sat in the audience with my little Lithuanian flag to show support.