Project information

Women Conductors at Morley

We are providing female music students across the UK with the opportunity to learn conducting skills in our two-day courses. The students, aged 16-25 will have hands-on training in conducting skills led by a professional conductor.

May 2015 - October 2016

Charity information: Morley College

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  • Need


    Historically, the role of the conductor has been almost exclusively male. While women have been taking their places as ensemble instrumentalists for many decades now and, in some ensembles at least, are reaching numerical parity with men, they continue to be excluded from the “top job”.

    There has not, for example, nor has there ever been, a single female chief conductor or musical director, among the world’s top twenty orchestras.


    We will train 160 young women in conducting. The courses are designed to give training in both practical musical training and in movement and stagecraft. The courses will also boost confidence and break down prejudices. We expect that most of the students taking part will either make a career in conducting or will have conducting among their career skills, perhaps alternating it with instrumental performing or singing. In short, we'll be seeing a lot more women on the podium in the coming years.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To increase the number of women conductors in the UK and beyond.


    » Provide 160 women with a two-day course that will introduce them to techniques of conducting with hands-on training and boost confidence.
    » Provide participants with the opportunity to meet like-minded musicians, and network with influential professional musicians.
    » Provoke debate about the lack of women conductors - bring together online an international panel of women conductors and other experts.

    What success will look like

    We will retain figures about the number of participants, and their feedback - what their expectations were, whether they met those expectations, their future career intentions.

  • Impact


    We are optimistic that within ten years, at least 40 per cent of our participants will be undertaking regular conducting engagements.


    The risks are that we won't be able to recruit enough participants. We have dealt with these risks by (1) allowing a good deal of time to recruit (and maintaining good relationships with the conservatoires where courses are to be held. (2) reducing or waiving fees for participants where they (or their conservatoire) are unable to pay. Also, we know from our pilot study and from discussion with conservatoires that there is demand for this work.


    We will record numbers of participants, and their feedback. This will form the basis for reporting to donors.

    Also, we will film courses so that supporters will be able to see the participants "at work" and hear their thoughts as they take part. This film will be made available to donors.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £52,450

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      Amount Heading Description
      £25,100 Weekend workshops 9 weekend workshops - at conservatoires throughout the UK
      £5,350 Festival of Women Conductors Networking event. International online panel. Public master class.
      £6,000 Course director fee Who will organise all weekends, liaise with the conservatoires and lead all weekend courses
      £7,000 Marketing costs Promoting the course, recruiting
      £5,000 Film and evaluation Filming the courses, preparing a film record. Recording information and reporting.
      £4,000 Admin and other overheads General admin, finance, backup for course director

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Arts Council of England £14,900 Conditional
    Samuel Gardner Memorial Trust £2,000 Guaranteed
    Colwinston Charitable Trust £2,500 Guaranteed
    The Musicians' Company £2,000 Guaranteed
    The Thistle Trust £1,000 Guaranteed
    income from fees etc £21,000 Conditional
  • Background


    Weekend courses will take place at conservatoires in:
    Glasgow, Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds, London (two weekends in London because of the large number of music schools in the city).

    The Festival of Women Conductors will take place in London at Morley College.


    Young women music students aged 16-25.

    Women are severely underrepresented as conductors of major orchestras, choirs or for opera and ballet companies. The project will benefit:
    160 women directly (as they will take part in the training)
    A similar number of women who will come to the courses as observers
    Indirectly many thousands of women as our work will break down prejudices around the job of conducting, or being musical director for musical institutions.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Morley College's reputation for exceptional music making is second to none. We count Gustav Holst and Michael Tippett among our past Directors of Music. Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten both taught here.

    Our current Director of Music, Andrea Brown, devised the project with the project director, and renowned conductor, Alice Farnham. They ran a successful pilot in 2014, so are in an ideal position to adapt the successful model to the broader context of the current project.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Alice Farnham

    Alice teaches music at Morley, but is also an internationally renowned conductor. She will be the project director, and lead all the courses.

    Alma Sheehan

    Alma is an expert on posture and stagecraft. She will help the participants with their physical presence and boost confidence.

    Andrea Brown

    Andrea is Director of Music at Morley College, She will oversee the project, ensuring that all courses take place, that reporting takes place etc.

Photo: Catherine Ashmore

Photo: Catherine Ashmore


The cost of a weekend workshop for 10 students

Morley College is doing something fantastic: a programme for women conductors taught by the very gifted Alice Farnham.

Sir Antonio Pappano