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Women As Orchestral Players: An American Point Of View.

The musical conditions prevailing in the United States are obviously unlike those existing in Great Britain, as described by our English correspondent in her article: “English Women in the Orchestra.” Indeed, there are no indications at the present time, either on our musical surface or beneath it, which point to that “emancipation” so optimistically awaited by our correspondent. And overburdened as we, too, are with teachers, players, and singers, we nevertheless fail to understand how this oversupply can create for woman a new field of activity for which, it must be perfectly clear, she is unfit in various ways.

It does not seem to us, in the first place, that the overcrowding in the professional ranks can possibly give rise to woman’s quest for work of a new character, when it is a transparent impossibility for her to perform that work to the satisfaction of the musical public. Nor is it reasonable to assume that the countless incompetents who are responsible for the congestion in the musical profession will care to abandon teaching or playing for the more arduous and less lucrative field of orchestral work. But even though we admit the possibility of a desire on the part of these countless ones to give variety to their occupations, we are not willing to say that they will be more welcome, or that they will prove themselves better equipped for orchestral work than for concert-playing and teaching. All women who are capable teachers and players will, sooner or later, find themselves amply and profitably employed. To these the idea of orchestral work as a means of livelihood will surely prove undesirable, if not positively repugnant.

In New York, as in London and some of the smaller towns in England, various “Ladies’ Orchestras” can be heard at cheap places of amusement where the patrons are eager for anything but good music. Also, there are in existence in this country some small orchestras, composed entirely of women who are more or less efficient performers, which give several concerts every season to the pleasure and satisfaction of numerous relatives and friends. But it is difficult to conceive how the former can influence our musical conditions in the least degree; and it is equally difficult to perceive, in the agreeable performances of the latter, any serious, well-planned effort to elevate our musical life.

It is freely admitted that women are capable and conscientious workers, and that a certain refining influence would necessarily result from their presence in an orchestral organization. But imagine women undertaking the work entailed by a New York operatic season! Imagine a refined, delicately-constituted young woman enduring the actual hardships which fall to the lot of every individual orchestral member of the Metropolitan Opera! Let any woman who imagines herself capable of performing such work as these men perform acquaint herself with what is required of the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House. She will be quickly disillusioned.

In a word, the orchestra is decidedly not woman’s sphere. Nor can she hope to accomplish anything by attempting to make it hers. And, wholly aside from all musical and physical considerations, which of us cares to see a charming young lady frantically struggling with a bass tuba or trombone?—George Lehmann.

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