Women who make history and break barriers (especially gender barriers) never get old for us. We love sharing about the everyday badass and determined women around the world who are fully living out their potential and don’t allow any sort of bygone era traditions to hold them back or dictate what their life outcome should be.
New York-born Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra is one of those trailblazers who has just made history by being appointed the first female conductor and music director of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, one of Australia’s three largest Orchestras.
While it is a first for the state and the country, it should be noted that in the global economy of classical music, female conductors and music directors are indeed a rarity. In 2007 Marin Alsop was appointed as the new conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which also made her the first female conductor of any major American orchestra. In 2013 she became the first woman to conduct Last Night of the BBC Proms in its 118 year history.
Elsewhere in the world of classical music, maestra Simone Young became the first woman to conduct the Vienna State Opera in 1993, and Nicolette Fraillon became the first music director of the Australian Ballet in 2003.
It is baffling to think that in 2015 women are still having to break many gender barriers, but it is one of the biggest reasons feminism is still around today because there are a number of industries that are yet to even have the presence of women, let alone reach parity.
Aside from claiming the “first female” title, Alondra’s appointment to the QSO is even more important because it is the first time they have ever appointed a Music Director, and they decided on a young woman.
“The appointment of Alondra de la Parra is a turning point for the Queensland Symphony. We have aligned ourselves with the great orchestras of the world, and with the appointment of our first Music Director we have secured a musical leader who could choose to work with any orchestra around the world,” said Sophie Galaise, CEO of QSO in a statement.
“We are the first orchestra in the country to appoint a Music Director. Alondra de la Parra will make history by becoming the first director of a state symphony orchestra,” she added.
Alondra de la Parra is already a trailblazer despite this new appointment down under, and at age 34, she has a lot to be incredibly proud of. She told NBC News in an interview that her new job is a “dream come true” that she has been working toward since she was a little girl.
When she was 23 she created the New York based Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, which today is known as an international symphony orchestra showcases the talent of young composers and performers from the Latin America region. In 2004, she became the first Mexican woman to conduct in New York. In 2014, she became the first female and the first Mexican to lead France’s Orchestre de Paris. Clearly breaking barriers is standard fare for Alondra!
Her new job doesn’t officially start until 2017 but she is scheduled to open to 2016 Queensland Symphony Orchestra season with Mahler’s Symphony No 2.
Part of her unique approach to classical music is the way she infuses her cultural heritage into the world of classical music in a way that is not commonly seen.
“I’ve always been an advocate that Mexican and Latin American music belongs in the core repertoire of every philharmonic orchestra,”she said.
Of course aside from her musical prowess and obvious capabilities with a baton in her hand is the notion that she is a standout role model for young women and girls in an industry where female inspirations at her level are few and far between. However, her approach to this aspect of her job is to show girls that their identity should be multi-dimensional, not just dictated by gender or any single title.
“I am a woman, I am a Mexican but that is just part of the many ingredients that make me who I am. It’s more three dimensional than the particular labels,” she said.
“We bring to the podium everything that one is. One can only be who one is and nothing else, it’s the experiences of your life that you share with others.”
The French newspaper Le Monde once said of her: “there is no doubt that, with Alondra de la Parra, classical music has arrived into the 21st century.”
We most certainly agree and hope her presence as a dynamic, talented and young trailblazer in the world of classical music will inspire many others that working hard and staying focused will allow you achieve anything you set your mind to.
Watch Alondra’s video statement about her new job and hear what she is looking forward to most at the Queensland Symphony Orchestra: