When I was one of no more than two to three woman band directors in the state, I was focused on my students, our progress, how my strengths could contribute to their growth and how to improve my weaknesses. I rarely ever thought on a day to day basis, "What should a woman band director do? What should she say? What should I not do because, that would be what a man would do?" It just wasn't in my thought process. I was a band director (who was a woman)
But every now and then, someone would say something that would remind me that I was a woman being a band director.
Here's one: After directing our high school concert band at a festival, a male judge approaches me in the hallway and said, "Hi, I'm Jim David (not real name) - that was a very aggressive program you chose for a female director." I remember being caught off guard by the comment. Was this a compliment? My impression was that he was surprised by what we performed. He didn't appear to disapprove, but apparently he expected softer, gentler music. Boom - CRASH - BOOM! We had a killer percussion section at the time and I programed several selections that gave them a chance to show off their talent, so yes, there was some drumming going on - and we played some fast stuff too.
I think my response to him was, "Thank you?"
That was a No Win Situation. The judge considered my gender before we played a note. If I had chosen a program full of ballads and Mozart transcriptions, then I'm perceived as a typical female director: nice, pretty, safe. When I chose music that showcased our ability to play intense, percussive music, it was perceived as a woman directing masculine music. Not being a director at all, would be the only way out of this conundrum, but that's not a viable option, is it? (Obvious answer here: Hell no.)
These are the current circumstances ladies. We are far beyond the decades with no female athletes, no female music directors, sports announcers - NO VOTING! But - there is plenty of residual gender bias left and that is for our current generations to dissolve, like a hazy day when the sun shines so bright, the fog must go away. When we shy away from our dreams because we don't see enough (or any) female role models, we perpetuate, we actually contribute to the male-female roles staying locked in our psyche for another generation to deal with.
Be what you want to be. Be the authentic version of you, which happens to be female, but be YOU first. Avoid acting either feminine or masculine - that is your gender, not your title.
I was a music director because I loved it. I learned from outstanding music teachers, both male and female. I loved sharing music and challenging my students to excel beyond what they thought was possible - and I happened to be a woman.
There are more female directors in the state than when I was directing, but it still isn't even close to half. Why? Because it still looks like a man's job. Woman dominate the K-8 ranks, but still are seen far less in front of a high school and especially a collegiate instrumental performance group. (Btw - I added instrumental because lots more woman direct choirs than bands and orchestras - I guess singing is considered more lady-like.) BOOM! I'm done today.
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