Women of the Philharmonic Can Play It All. Just Not in Pants

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lennygoran
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Women of the Philharmonic Can Play It All. Just Not in Pants

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:06 am

I wasn't aware of this dress code requirement at the NY Philharmonic. Regards, Len


Women of the Philharmonic Can Play It All. Just Not in Pants.
I

By Michael Cooper

June 14, 2018

Women can wear pants at the Oscars, the Tony Awards and state dinners. They can wear pants while graduating from the Naval Academy, figure skating at the Olympics and running for president. They can wear them at just about any workplace in America.

But when the women of the New York Philharmonic walked on stage at David Geffen Hall recently to play Mozart and Tchaikovsky, they all wore floor-length black skirts or gowns. And they’re required to: The Philharmonic, alone among the nations’s 20 largest orchestras, does not allow women to wear pants for formal evening concerts.

That could soon change. The orchestra — the oldest in the United States, with its 176th season wrapping up — has quietly been talking about modernizing its dress code.

Bowing to pressure from women who argued that the dress restrictions were not only unfair, but could also hinder their ability to play comfortably, other major orchestras have moved in recent years to let women wear pants if they choose. But gender equality is not the only consideration at the Philharmonic. At a moment when all orchestras are struggling to attract new audiences, some in classical music worry that old-fashioned formal wear can be off-putting to newcomers. So the Philharmonic is also re-examining its rule requiring men to wear white ties and tails, to see if it still makes sense now that the top-hat era has passed.

“It’s a little bit strange,” said Leelanee Sterrett, a 31-year-old horn player who joined the orchestra in 2013 and is one of the musicians who has been discussing modernizing the dress code with the orchestra’s management. “I think we would like to see it changed, and soon. And not just changed to allow pants, but to make more of a broad statement of what it means to be dressed.”

It is not merely a question of chic: There are practical considerations as well. Playing an instrument is physically demanding, and many musicians of both sexes find standard formal wear constricting. That is how Julie Ann Giacobassi, an English horn player, wound up revolutionizing the dress code of the San Francisco Symphony in the 1980s. She was playing Mahler’s Second Symphony when one of the keys of her instrument got stuck in the folds of her skirt.
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“I really don’t remember hearing anyone say, ‘No, I don’t think we should change,’” said a horn player in the orchestra.CreditCaitlin Ochs for The New York Times

“I thought, ‘Oh no, this is it,’” she said in a telephone interview, recalling the mishap that became a last straw for her.

So she went out and got herself a set of tails, just like the men. Her move raised eyebrows at the time — she said she was once scolded by an usher while on tour in Florence, Italy — but today it is enshrined in the orchestra’s dress code. San Francisco now gives women the option of wearing all-black dresses, long skirts or pantsuits, but also notes explicitly that “full dress ‘tails’ may be worn.”

Women have made great strides in American orchestras in recent decades, especially since the advent of blind auditions, in which musicians try out from behind screens (often with rugs put down to muzzle the clicking of heels). A little over half a century ago, the Philharmonic had no full-time women on its roster; it now has 44 women and 50 men. But while its peers now let women play formal concerts in a variety of pants and slacks, the Philharmonic allows pants only at matinees, Young People’s Concerts, parks concerts, or when playing in contemporary music ensembles. Not at evening subscription concerts, the core of its season.

Deborah Borda, the Philharmonic’s president and chief executive officer, said that some players approached her last fall to discuss updating the dress code. “It’s been a really good dialogue,” she said.

But she noted that it could be difficult to find a broadly acceptable solution, agreeing on clothes that are comfortable but still dressy enough to give a sense of occasion; pleasing longtime patrons, who tend to be conservative in their tastes and have indicated in research surveys that they like things as they are; and finding new outfits that can stand the test of time. Ms. Borda remembered one orchestra in the 1970s that switched to velveteen jackets with wide lapels and bell bottoms: “For a year or two they looked totally cool, and then they were a joke.”

“A lot of orchestras have tried different takes on men’s and women’s formal wear,” she said. “It hasn’t been entirely successful.”

In 1958, when Leonard Bernstein was the Philharmonic’s music director, he tried to get the orchestra to wear more modern Nehru jackets for some concerts. They were not popular, and within months he dropped them, suggesting that they “pass into history as ‘Bernstein’s folly.’” In 2016, the Vienna Philharmonic unveiled new suits designed by Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler, but the orchestra has not fully adopted them.

An ill-fated Philharmonic sartorial update: Leonard Bernstein and musicians in new Nehru-style uniforms appear in The New York Times in 1958; they lasted a few months.

But ensembles are still trying. This month the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra introduced new outfits created by the Parsons School of Design at the New School and made of high-tech, breathable fabrics donated by Under Armour, the Baltimore-based athletic wear company. “From out in the hall, it wasn’t easy to pick out all the subtle details in the garments, which promise greater ease of movement,” the critic Tim Smith wrote in The Baltimore Sun. Last year, the Seattle Symphony decided to allow men to jettison their tails, except for New Year’s Eve and galas.

The Philharmonic is still in the early stages of its discussions. “One thing is really clear: People in the orchestra want to remain dressy,” said Fiona Simon, a violinist who has been a member since 1985. “It’s important that we look like we care. That is sending a message. We put so much into the preparation of our programs that, yes, we need to look good as well.”

If orchestras have sometimes struggled to revolutionize their looks, most large ones have decided in the meantime to let the women in their ranks wear pants if they wish — some only recently. The women in the Metropolitan Opera’s orchestra have long been able to wear pants in the pit, but until 2015 they were required to wear skirts for concerts at Carnegie Hall and on tour. A new agreement, reached that year, allows them to choose wide, flowing pants if they like.

Jessica Phillips, a clarinet player who leads the Met orchestra’s negotiating committee, said that the change had been especially supported by women in the cello, wind and brass sections, who felt that skirts interfered with their ability to play comfortably.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, which is often considered the nation’s most forward-thinking orchestra, only moved to allow women to wear flowing formal pants or all-black, tailored pantsuits at formal concerts in its most recent contract, which was ratified last year. “We lobbied for it for a long time,” said Meredith Snow, a violist.

Ms. Sterrett, the horn player at the New York Philharmonic, said that as they discussed changes to the dress code, musicians made it clear that they wanted to make sure that concerts continued to provide an “elevated experience.”

“How can what we wear, how we look, represent the values of the orchestra?” she recalled her colleagues asking. “I really don’t remember hearing anyone say, ‘No, I don’t think we should change.’”





https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/14/arts ... collection

John F
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Re: Women of the Philharmonic Can Play It All. Just Not in Pants

Post by John F » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:49 am

Michael Cooper wrote:The Philharmonic, alone among the nations’s 20 largest orchestras, does not allow women to wear pants for formal evening concerts.
However, there are other major orchestras in the world whose dress code for evening concerts requires long skirts, not pants. And I don't see how this could "hinder their ability to play comfortably." Can somebody explain this?
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Re: Women of the Philharmonic Can Play It All. Just Not in Pants

Post by Lance » Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:45 pm

In the classical or romantic period days when women did play (on occasion) in orchestras, orchestral dress was always formal, always black. Since when did attire interfere with playing a musical instrument. But I also understand both sides of the issue.
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John F
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Re: Women of the Philharmonic Can Play It All. Just Not in Pants

Post by John F » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:47 pm

In the Classical and Romantic periods, women didn't play in professional orchestras. Quite a few were professional musicians of stature, especially pianists; three of Mozart's piano concertos were written for them. And of course women singers were indispensable in the opera house, as soloists and in the chorus, though there they wore costumes (and, when playing roles like Cherubino, trousers).

The first women orchestral players were in London's Queen's Hall Orchestra; Henry Wood hired them in 1913. In the U.S., the first woman in a major orchestra was harpist Edna Phillips, hired in 1930 by Leopold Stokowski, who within a few years added another harpist and the cellist Elsa Hilger. There were all-women ensembles earlier than that, the first dating from 1898 according to Wikipedia; presumably they wore whatever they chose.
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lennygoran
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Re: Women of the Philharmonic Can Play It All. Just Not in Pants

Post by lennygoran » Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:23 am

An exception at Central Park and Borda in jeans! Regards, Len :lol:


The Philharmonic’s Women Can Wear Pants in the Park

By Anthony Tommasini

June 14, 2018

The New York Philharmonic, the only major American orchestra that doesn’t permit its female players to wear pants for formal evening performances, makes an exception for the popular concerts in the city’s parks. So it appeared that many of the women had jettisoned their usual skirts on Wednesday, when the Philharmonic came to the Great Lawn at Central Park on this year’s tour.

And it was a lovely evening. Though the forecast had been iffy, the weather was clear and breezy. The parks conservancy estimated the crowd at 28,000. The dynamic conductor James Gaffigan, whose international career is rising, led an appealing program of works by Saint-Saëns, Bernstein and Rimsky-Korsakov — all standards of parks concerts.

This time, however, the proceedings included results from an educational venture, and a wonderful surprise. Two, actually. Mr. Gaffigan conducted short new pieces, three minutes each, by a pair of participants in the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers initiative. How young? Well, Jordan Millar, a student at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, and Camrym Cowan, a student at P.S. 11 in Brooklyn, are both 11.

Through this educational initiative, which has been going on for more than 20 years, the Philharmonic invites students enthusiastic about music to compose and orchestrate their own pieces, working with designated teaching artists. Selected scores are played at David Geffen Hall as part of the Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts. But it was a big step for Ms. Millar and Ms. Cowan to have their pieces performed before thousands in Central Park.

You might have expected them to be rattled by the pressure. Not so. During a brief joint interview onstage with Deborah Borda, the Philharmonic’s president and chief executive officer, the aspiring composers sounded poised and assured. (It should be noted: Ms. Borda was wearing jeans.) When asked what the audience should listen for in their pieces, they each had specific answers.


The theme of this year’s Very Young Composers initiative was the Harlem Renaissance. Ms. Millar and Ms. Cowan described taking trips to Harlem to look for inspiration. Ms. Millar said that in “Boogie Down Uptown” she evokes Broadway sounds and light swing, as well as the paintings of Aaron Douglas that depict shadowy figures dancing. Eliciting these various elements in the piece “gives it depth,” Ms. Millar said confidently.

Indeed, the music has layered elements, starting with a theme in unison that splits into parallel intervals, then leads to episodes with brassy flourishes and bluesy turns over urgent rhythmic riffs.

Ms. Cowan said that in her piece, “Harlem Shake,” the audience should listen for a passage of saxophone improvisation and catch the way the melody repeats. Both elements came across vividly in music that bustles with sliding brass, sputtering rhythms and an episode of instrumental interplay. At the end, the audience stood and cheered both composers.

Mr. Gaffigan began earlier with a crisp, dark account of the Bacchanale from Saint-Saëns’s “Samson et Dalila,” then led a feisty performance of Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from “On the Town.” After intermission he drew colorful, rhapsodic playing from the orchestra in Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.” The evening ended with fireworks, a ritual that audiences for these parks concerts count on.




https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/14/arts ... -park.html

maestrob
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Re: Women of the Philharmonic Can Play It All. Just Not in Pants

Post by maestrob » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:01 am

More to the point, who DOESN'T wear jeans in Central Park? :mrgreen:

lennygoran
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Re: Women of the Philharmonic Can Play It All. Just Not in Pants

Post by lennygoran » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:33 am

maestrob wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:01 am
More to the point, who DOESN'T wear jeans in Central Park? :mrgreen:

Brian me-never bring them when we come into nyc and we are in the park a lot. Len

lennygoran
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Re: Women of the Philharmonic Can Play It All. Just Not in Pants

Post by lennygoran » Sat Jun 16, 2018 5:43 am

Now this letter in the NY Times from Borda. Regards, Len

To the Editor:

Re “Women of Philharmonic Push to Erase Dress From Dress Code” (front page, June 15):

How embarrassing! The first American orchestra that allowed women to attend performances without a male escort currently bans pants onstage for female musicians at certain concerts. Thank goodness we at least dropped the requirement for hoop skirts. Nothing like progress.

Know this: Change is in the air. Positive discussions between management and the orchestra are continuing. And as your critic noted in a recent review, as president and chief executive of the New York Philharmonic, I wore jeans onstage at our Central Park concert.

DEBORAH BORDA, CHICAGO

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