Posted by: Jor's Journey | November 16, 2016

Bring on the Maestro

As we’ve gone through this semester, I’ve noticed that many of the articles we’ve read for our class usually tend to be related to women is business, women in education, or women in politics. It got me thinking about why the women leaders we tend to hear/ read about in our society are usually in these few fields. It that the only place they can thrive or are given enough attention to make an impact?  Well today I wanted to bring in a new topic: the orchestra.

Music is something that can bring people together, and being a part of that atmosphere can be a very intense leadership role. JoAnn Falletta was the first maestro to conduct an orchestra. She auditioned against 4 other men and won. As a leader to such a large diverse and exceptionally talented group of musicians, JoAnn wanted to break the stereotype of being an aggressive and scary conductor. She knew the musicians would not respond to such masculine tendencies from a female maestro. She is actually quite communal and views the orchestra a her family, so it was not a big adjustment for her to make. She tends to be more humble in her accomplishments and was very aware that as the first female maestro she would pave the ways for future women. She noted that “the success of a leader is their ability to make others feel powerful… and the role of a leader is not about forcing results, it’s to show them how to think of things in a new way”. I thought it was very insightful that she believes a real leader never doubts the abilities of those around them.

As the first female orchestra conductor I think it is inspiring to learn about a female leader who is not talked about in many class settings. Women are making leaps and bounds in so many fields and I think it’s important we take a minute to appreciate all the hard work they put into to receive those positions.

*all info came from her talk at the PLP speaker series


  1. I also noticed this limitation on the careers of women we discussed in class. Because those three job categories to not necessarily apply to me, I think it was really nice to hear from a women leader in a very different field from those three at the PLP event, especially considering many of the men we hear from are also in those three fields of work. Of course, many of the theories and leadership concepts we discuss apply to women in most careers, but it was nice to broaden our perspective to learn about a leader in a specific male-dominated field that doesn’t fit into the ones we typically discuss. The thing I have been finding the most interesting about the interview papers we have done is that we hear about women (through the take away talks) in a wide variety of positions that we might not even think of. They have a wide selection of experiences and things they bring to their jobs. Sometimes they reflect what we have learned in class, other times they expand on and stretch the limits of what we have learned. I think that seeing real life examples like this is really important to truly understanding the things we learn from readings and discussions and how they apply outside the classroom.

  2. As a (former) musician, I am really glad you made this post!

    I love the quote you had, when she said “the success of the leader is their ability to make others feel powerful…” It reminded me of the reading we did about women and power, and how women tend to use “power-with” rather than “power-over.” It tends to be more communal and less commanding, but could possibly run the risk of being seen as “weak.” It sounds like JoAnn doesn’t have a problem with that–she sounds like a strong woman who happens to know how to work a double bind.

    I especially think she does this well in a musical setting. When I was in high school, my band director for two years was awful–as in, “students went to therapy and the band was reduced by half in under two years” bad. I know the situation is a little bit different because we were students and JoAnn deals with adults, but music is a very personal thing for musicians. It is something that should be treated with care, because if you are too harsh on a musician about their music, it will ruin the passion they have for it. I think sometimes directors or conductors really toe this line; how much criticism and harshness is constructive, and how much is too much? That’s one reason I really like JoAnn’s approach. Her idea of building other people up and making them feel powerful runs much less a risk of being too harsh on a musician and ruining the thing they love. Rather, it seems to me like it would really build up a musician’s passion by giving encouragement. This is what I feel like leadership should be: the encouragement and building up of something a person is passionate about (assuming it’s moral, of course!).

  3. I actually did my last interview paper on JoAnn! She is such a sweet individual and very impactful. Every time she spoke something beneficial and intelligent came out. She is a strong leader, and she knows she is. I think that is one of the big defining qualities. She knows that she is good, which is hard for many people, especially women. She tries hard everyday and with every Orchestra she is with. I am not a music person, so during her PLP speaker talk I did not really view her as much of a leader. I learned really quickly that what she does is amazing and she is very impactful.

  4. I definitely notice that throughout the leadership discipline, politics and business are the primary focus. I think that stems from our tendency to focus on positional, powerful leadership. More creative disciplines like music, art, etc. tend to get overlooked because they aren’t as autocratic. I think its incredibly similar to the way we define leadership in general as an autocratic masculine thing so I absolutely love that that notion is being challenged and changed by tenacious women such as JoAnn

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