Mail on Sunday - 21 Extraordinary Women in 2021

4 Jan 2022

The conductor lowering the ladder for women in music: Alice Farnham

Alice Farnham

World-renowned conductor Alice Farnham is on a mission: to empower more women to join her in a conducting career. ‘This idea that it has to be a man on the podium has been so ingrained that women just couldn’t see themselves in that position. I thought: let’s change that,’ she says.

As artistic director of the Women Conductors programme at the Royal Philharmonic Society, Alice has worked with over 500 female musicians, giving them the chance to try their hand at conducting.

‘My main focus is to give them the confidence to stand in front of people and be a bigger version of themselves,’ says Alice, who has worked with the Royal Opera House, English National Ballet and the BBC Concert Orchestra. ‘The programme has had a big effect – many of them have become conductors, or are training to become one.’

Alice’s work has been so successful that, this year, the Royal Philharmonic Society launched the next chapter of the Women Conductors programme: a groundbreaking new mentoring project dedicated to nurturing female conductors at the start of their career.

‘There is a huge amount of pressure on new conductors. We’re giving them a platform to work with a professional orchestra, in a space where they can try new things and not feel judged,’ says Alice.

Her ultimate ambition is that one day as many women will conduct orchestras as men. ‘I think we’ve got a way to go. Until then, I will be championing these women and making sure their careers blossom.’

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