Antje Rößler, March 2, 2011
Old guard calls the tune – interview with the conductor Maria Makraki
- Why do you think there are so few female conductors?
That’s slowly changing. You can now find women who are studying conducting at all levels.
- How are the women in this field being disadvantaged?
As in all other professions, there are very few women at the top. This is not due to their lack of ability, but to the social realities as well as to the way our society works. Women are often at a disadvantage due to family reasons, and it is also not easy to overcome traditions and prejudices, especially in this profession.
- Have you experienced discrimination personally?
No, not really. Of course, you always have to convince people of your abilities. The first minutes are always crucial, but after that a person’s gender is no longer relevant. There will always be conservative orchestras and conservative musicians. But conducting is about communicating a concept, and women do that equally as well as men. As in any other profession, a conductor can have a great deal of assertiveness, charisma, musicality and authority.
- In this respect, does it make a difference whether you are standing in front of your own orchestra or an unfamiliar one?
Yes, there is a different. With your own orchestra you feel more liberated, more able to experiment and test, even cross boundaries. A pleasant but powerful musical atmosphere can be conveyed to the musicians to create a special – sometime even bombastic – tone-entity.
- What is your personal strategy for asserting yourself in male dominated hierarchies?
I don’t think about my gender. I always find the challenge lies in the tonal concept and interpretation of a composition, that this is accepted and then taken up by the musicians.
- How do you think this problem can be resolved? A women’s quota doesn’t actually work for the arts.
We need social structures that support women and relieve them of some of their family commitments. This would give talented women the chance to show their qualities and abilities. In the arts, a women’s quota could sometimes lead to women being discriminated against; I would be very careful about employing such methods.
- Thank you for talking to us.