List of female classical conductors

The following is a sortable list of female classical conductors. Classical conductors work with orchestras, opera companies, ballet companies and choral groups.[1][2] Conducting orchestras has been called a glass ceiling by the BBC.[3]

Name Image Country Orchestras Born Died Notes
Marin Alsop United States Colorado Symphony Orchestra
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo
Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna
1956 First female conductor to be named music director/principal conductor of the Colorado SO, the Bournemouth SO, the Baltimore SO, and of OSESP. First female conductor of the Last Night of the Proms in 2013[4]
Elfrida Andrée Elfrida Andrée svensk tonsättare.png Sweden 1841 1929 [5]
Sabine Aubert Sabine Aubert in 2019.png France Odyssey Symphony Orchestra 1968
Jessica Bejarano United States San Francisco Philharmonic

Peninsula Symphony

Founder and Music Director of the San Francisco Philharmonic.[6]
Frieda Belinfante Netherlands Orange County Philharmonic 1904 1995 [7]
Maria Badstue Denmark Gothenburg Symphony, Odense Symphony Orchestra, Aalborg Symphony Orchestra 1982 [8]
Gisele Ben-Dor Israel Houston Symphony
Louisville Orchestra
Israel Philharmonic
1955 [9]
Linda Bouchard Canada 1957 [10]
Nadia Boulanger Nadia Boulanger 1925.jpg France London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony, New York Philharmonic 1887 1979 First woman to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra.[11]
Kalena Bovell United States Memphis Symphony Orchestra Only African-American and Latinamerican conductor in the United States as of 2019.[12]
Antonia Louisa Brico Antonia Brico 1940.jpg Netherlands New York Philharmonic, Denver Community Symphony 1902 1989 First woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic.[13]
Sarah Caldwell United States Boston University Opera Workshop
Opera Company of Boston
1924 2006 First woman to conduct at the Metropolitan Opera (1976)
Karina Canellakis United States Radio Filharmonisch Orkest 1981 First female conductor to be named chief conductor of any Dutch orchestra.
Lisette Canton Canada the Ottawa Bach Choir Canadian Choral Conductor. Conductor of the first Canadian Choir to be invited to sing at the Thomaskirche. Juno award nominated in 2020.[14]
Joana Carneiro Portugal Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa, Gulbenkian Orchestra, Berkeley Symphony, Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa 1976
Elim Chan Hong Kong NorrlandsOperan
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Antwerp Symphony Orchestra
1986 First female principal guest conductor of the RSNO
* First woman conductor and youngest-ever conductor named chief conductor of the Antwerp Symphony
Han-na Chang South Korea Philharmonia Orchestra 1982 [15]
Mei-Ann Chen United States Chicago Sinfonietta, Memphis Symphony Orchestra 1973 [16]
Debra Cheverino Italy Maggio Musicale Fiorentino 1976 First female conductor and the second conductor to receive a Fulbright congressional grant.[17]
Lina Coen Lina coen 1922Profile.jpg United States Cosmopolitan Opera Company; Jewish American Opera Company 1878 1952 First female in New York to conduct an opera.[18] First female in United States to conduct a grand opera.[19]
Avril Coleridge-Taylor United Kingdom Royal Albert Hall, Royal Marines 1903 1998 First female conductor of the H.M.S Royal Marines.[20]
Catherine Comet France Grand Rapids Symphony, American Symphony Orchestra 1944
Jessica Cottis Australia Glasgow New Music Expedition 1979
Valéria Csányi Hungary Hungarian Opera, since 1983 1958
Alondra de la Parra Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas
Queensland Symphony Orchestra
1980 First female conductor at the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.[21]
Ausma Derkēvica Latvia 1929 2011 [22]
Suzi Digby United Kingdom ORA Singers 1958 [23]
Veronika Dudarova Russia Junior conductor of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
Principal conductor of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Orchestra of Russia
1916 2009 First 20th century female symphony orchestra conductor
Sian Edwards United Kingdom English National Opera, Ensemble Modern 1959 [24]
Laurence Equilbey FolleJournée2009 LaurenceEquilbey2.jpg France Accentus 1962 [25]
JoAnn Falletta JoAnn Falletta.jpg United States Virginia Symphony Orchestra
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Ulster Orchestra
1954 [26]
Nicolette Fraillon Australia The Australian Ballet 1960 The world's only woman music director of a ballet company.[27]
Michi Gaigg Austria L'arpa festante, L'Orfeo 1957 [28]
Hortense von Gelmini [de] Hortense von Gelmini Germany Nürnberger Symphoniker
Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg
Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Hofer Symphoniker
1947 First female conductor of these and other German Symphony Orchestras between 1975 and 1980. Conductor of the Orchestra of Hochschule für Musik Freiburg in 1965, Founder and conductor of Orchestra Gelmini since 1969. "The gathering critical judgement of Hortense von Gelmini, Germany's only woman conductor, is that she has not only the talent but the education, energy, and persistence to make her mark in this difficult and competitive profession."[29]
Ruth Gipps United Kingdom 1921 1999 [30]
Jane Glover United Kingdom London Mozart Players, Music of the Baroque, Chicago 1949 Third woman to conduct the Metropolitan Opera.[31]
Chiquinha Gonzaga Chiquinha Gonzaga-1877.jpg Brazil 1847 1935 First female conductor in Brazil.[32]
Karen Gorden United States Special Jury Prize, 50th Geneva International Conducting Competition 1967 Founded FORCULTURE in 2014[33]
Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla Lithuania Salzburger Landestheater
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
1986 First female music director of the CBSO
María Guinand Maria Guinand.jpg Venezuela 1953 [35]
Emmanuelle Haïm Emmanuelle Haim.jpg France Le Concert d'Astrée 1962 First woman to conduct at Lyric Opera of Chicago


Barbara Hannigan Barbara Hannigan conducts.jpg Canada Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Ludwig Orchestra
1971 First female principal guest conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Sarah Hicks United States Minnesota Orchestra 1972 [37]
Margaret Hillis United States Chicago Symphony Chorus, Chicago Symphony Orchestra 1921 1998 Founder and director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.


Imogen Holst United Kingdom 1907 1984 [39]
Apo Hsu Apo-Hsu.altonthompson.jpg Taiwan / United States [40]
Laura Jackson United States Reno Philharmonic Orchestra [41]
Huan Jing China [42]
Sarah Ioannides Australia El Paso Symphony Orchestra, Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Tacoma Symphony Orchestra 1972 [43]
Sofi Jeannin France Choeur de Radio France
BBC Singers
1976 First female chief conductor of the Choeur de Radio France and of the BBC Singers.
Julia Jones United Kingdom Oper Köln, Staatstheater Darmstadt, Sinfonieorchester Wuppertal 1961 [44]
Karen Kamensek United States Slovenian National Theatre
Staatsoper Hannover
1970 [45]
Thea Kano United States New York City Master Chorale 1965 [46]
Vítězslava Kaprálová Kapralova1935.jpg Czech Republic Czech Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra 1915 1940 [47]
Eun Sun Kim South Korea Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera 1980 First female conductor to be named principal guest conductor of the Houston Grand Opera (effective 2019)


Carolyn Kuan United States Hartford Symphony Orchestra 1977 First female music director of the Hartford Symphony
Elisabeth Kuyper Netherlands Berliner Tonküstlerinnen Orchester and other female orchestras in the Hague, London and New York 1877 1953
Iris Lemare United Kingdom 1902 1997 First woman to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra. She started the Macnaghten-Lemare series of concerts which introduced the public to new works by British composers. She is considered the first British woman to have worked professionally as a conductor
Tania León Tania Leon.jpg Cuba/United States 1943 [49]
Marsha Mabrey Marsha Mabrey 2020.jpg United States Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra 1949 First African American woman conductor of Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra
Symposia and Festival Director of Detroit Symphony’s African American Composer’s Forum and Symposium
Created West Coast Women’s Conductor/Composer Symposium and American Women Conductor/Composer Symposium at the University of Oregon
Oksana Lyniv Ukraine Graz Opera, Bavarian State Opera 1978 First-ever Generalmusikdirektorin (female General Music Director) of the Graz Opera and Graz Philharmonic Orchestra
Susanna Mälkki Finland Ensemble Intercontemporain
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Los Angeles Philharmonic
1969 First female music director of the EIC
* First female chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic
* First-ever female conductor in the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series
Joana Mallwitz Germany Theater Erfurt
Staatstheater Nürnberg
1986 First-ever Generalmusikdirektorin (female General Music Director) of the Theater Erfurt and of the Staatstheater Nürnberg
Ariane Matiakh Festival de Cornouaille 2014 - Didier Squiban et l'Orchestre symphonique de Bretagne - 13.jpg France Opera and Staatskapelle Halle 1980 First-ever Generalmusikdirektorin (female General Music Director) of the Opera and Staatskapelle Halle
Simone Menezes Simone Menezes at Lille Opera.jpg Brazil, Italy Camerata Latino Americana 1977 Conductor of Unicamp Symphony Orchestra (Sao Paulo), founder of Camerata Latino Americana and Villa-Lobos Project[50][51][52]
Gemma New New Zealand Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra 1986 First female music director of the Hamilton PO
Tomomi Nishimoto Japan Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, Kyoto Symphony Orchestra 1970 [53]
Jasmina Novokmet Serbia 1969 [54]
Eva Ollikainen Finland Nordic Chamber Orchestra 1982 First female conductor to be named chief conductor of the Nordic CO
Helen Quach Vietnam, Australia, Philippines 1940 2013 [55]
Andrea Quinn Great Britain The Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet 1964 First female music director of The Royal Ballet and the New York City Ballet
Gal Rasché Gal Rasché.jpg Austria Viennarmonica, Metropolitan Kammerorchester Wien 1960 [56]
Kathleen Riddick United Kingdom 1907 1973 Founder, Surrey Philharmonic Orchestra in 1932, London Women's String Orchestra (later the Riddick Orchestra) in 1938
Kay George Roberts United States New England Orchestra 1950 [57]
Lucy Scarbrough United States El Paso Civic Orchestra 1927 2020 [58]
Inma Shara Inma Shara amurrioarra 2009an.jpg Spain 1972 First female conductor who took the podium at the Vatican in 2008.[59]
Anna Skryleva Germany Theater Magdeburg 1975 Russian/German conductor became a first female General Music Director (GMD) of Theater Magdeburg and a first and only one Russian female conductor as General Music Director in Europe.[60][61][62]
Jeanette Sorrell United States Apollo's Fire 1965
Nathalie Stutzmann France Orfeo 55, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo, Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra 1965 First female to conduct an opera at the head of Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra
Anu Tali Estonia Nordic Symphony Orchestra, Sarasota Orchestra 1972 Co-founder of the Nordic SO. First female music director of the Sarasota Orchestra.
Katalin Váradi [hu] Hungary Budapest Opera 1973–1980, Budapest Operetta 1980–2004, Miskolc National Theatre 1984–2012 1948 2015
Nan Washburn United States Michigan Philharmonic Winner of the American Prize in Conducting 2013[63]
Keri-Lynn Wilson Canada Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra 1967 First female chief conductor of the Slovenian PO
Diane Wittry Diane Wittry Conductor Photo.jpg United States Symphony of Southeast Texas

Norwalk Symphony Orchestra Allentown Symphony Orchestra

1964 The 1st[64] female music director of an orchestra in the State of Texas, and the first female conductor at the Ojai Music Festival, California
Rachael Worby United States Symphony Orchestra in Wheeling, Pasadena POPS 1950 [65]
Lidiya Yankovskaya United States Chicago Opera Theater, Refugee Orchestra Project, Juventas New Music Ensemble, Lowell House Opera, Commonwealth Lyric Theater 1986 Russian-American opera and symphonic conductor and the Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater

As of her appointment at COT, Yankovskaya is the only female music director of a major American opera company.[66][67]

Simone Young Simone Young 2010 - Portrait by Bertold Fabricius.jpg Australia Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Opera Australia
Philharmoniker Hamburg
1961 First female conductor of the Vienna State Opera in 1993.[68] Second woman to conduct the Metropolitan Opera
Xian Zhang China Sioux City Symphony Orchestra
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
1973 * First female music director of the Sioux City Symphony, of La Verdi, and of the NJSO.
* First titled female conductor with any BBC orchestra.
* First female conductor ever to conduct the annual Beethoven 9 Prom at The Proms.
Xiaoying Zheng China China National Opera House, Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra, Ai Yue Nu Philharmonic Orchestra 1929 First female conductor in China.[69]


  1. ^ Conlon, Joan Catoni (2009). "Introduction". In Conlon, Joan C. (ed.). Wisdom, Wit, and Will: Women Choral Conductors on Their Art. Chicago: GIA Publishing. p. 2. ISBN 9781579997601.
  2. ^ Ammer, Christine (1998). "Classical Music". In Mankiller, Wilma; Mink, Gwendolyn; Navarro, Marysa; Smith, Barbara; Steinem, Gloria (eds.). The Reader's Compainion to U.S. Women's History. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 110. ISBN 0395671736.
  3. ^ Burton-Hill, Clemency (21 October 2014). "Why Aren't There More Women Conductors?". BBC. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  4. ^ Michael, Church (8 September 2013). "First female conductor, Marin Alsop, rocks Last Prom". The Independent. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  5. ^ Lewis, Dave. "Elfrida Andrée".
  6. ^ "Bay Brilliant: Jessica Bejarano". KQED. Retrieved 2020-10-01.
  7. ^ Pasles, Chris (19 February 1987). "Frieda Belinfante Honored : Cultural Pioneer Still A Voice For Excellence". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  8. ^ "Maria Bastue, Conductor". Nordic Artists Management. Archived from the original on 13 May 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  9. ^ Malcolm Hayes, Classic CD Magazine, 1999[full citation needed]
  10. ^ Francis, Kimberly (6 May 2008). "Linda Bouchard". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  11. ^ Potter, Caroline. "Boulanger, Nadia". Grove Music Online (Oxford Music Online). Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  12. ^ Susanin, Roger; Lank, Olivia (6 March 2019). "Only female African American Hispanic conductor to guest conduct New Britain Symphony". WFSB. Retrieved 2019-12-16.
  13. ^ "Antonia Brico". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  14. ^ "Lisette Canton (Conductor) - Short Biography".
  15. ^ English Ahram (December 12, 2012). "Qatar Philharmonic announces new music director". English Ahram online.
  16. ^ von Rhein, John (September 20, 2011). "Sinfonietta's new maestra makes diversity her mantra". Chicago Tribune. ISSN 1085-6706. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  17. ^ "Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Fulbright Programme in Italy". The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. 13 June 2018. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  18. ^ "Woman Wields the Baton – Lina Coen Conducts a Performance of Carmen in Garden Theatre". The New York Times. 8 February 1917. p. 10. Retrieved 2020-07-14. ... as far as is known this is the first time in this city that such a thing has happened.
  19. ^ "Mme. Coen Is First of Sex to Wield Baton in Grand-Opera in America", New York Review, 10 February 1917.
  20. ^ Sadie, Julie Anne and Rhian Samuel. Eds. The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. Macmillan: New York, 1995.
  21. ^ Matthew Westwood (2015-10-24). "QSO's Alondra de la Parra: first woman to head a state orchestra". The Australian. Retrieved 2015-11-28.
  22. ^ "Mūžībā aizgājusi diriģente Ausma Derkēvica". Delfi. 27 December 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  23. ^ "Interview with Suzi Digby" (PDF). Assoc. of British Choral Conductors. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
  24. ^ Duchen, Jessica and Richard Wigmore. "Edwards, Sian", Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, accessed 2 June 2011 (subscription required)
  25. ^ Andrew Clements (2008-05-02). "Dvořák: Stabat Mater, Engerer/ Accentus/ Equilbey". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  26. ^ Alf McCreary (2011-05-09). "JoAnn Falletta becomes Ulster Orchestra's first female conductor". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
  27. ^ Jeremy Story Carter, " Australian Ballet music director calls out sexism in classical music world", ABC Radio National, 13 June 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2016
  28. ^ "Gaigg, Michi", Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon online
  29. ^ David Mutch in The Christian Science Monitor, February 25, 1976, Boston, US
  30. ^ Foreman, Lewis (2 March 1999). "Obituary: Ruth Gipps". The Independent. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  31. ^ "A Rollicking Treat Infused With Grace and Gravitas" by Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 17 December 2013]
  32. ^ "Chiquinha Gonzaga". Chiquinha Gonzaga (in Portuguese). Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  33. ^ WDPR-FM. "Interview with Conductor Karen Gorden"[permanent dead link], WDPR Public Radio, date of original interview to be confirmed. Retrieved on 30 July 2015.
  34. ^ Anna Schweingel (2012-07-12). "Brauche Ewigkeiten von Einsamkeit". Mannheimer Morgen. Retrieved 2016-01-09.
  35. ^ "Maria Guinand". LA Philharmonic. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  36. ^ John von Rhein (2007-10-28). "Trailblazer Haim sets conducting, family life to two-part harmony". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-11-13.
  37. ^ "Sarah Hicks: Staff Conductor". Curtis Institute of Music. Archived from the original on 2013-06-11. Retrieved 2013-06-01.
  38. ^ Kozinn, Allan (6 February 1998). "Margaret Hillis, 76, Conductor; Led Chicago Symphony Chorus". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  39. ^ Strode, Rosamund. "Holst, Imogen Clare". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 17 February 2014. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  40. ^ "Performance Today, 2007-08-29". National Public Radio (USA). Archived from the original on 15 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-06.
  41. ^ "Laura Jackson (a webpage from the official website of RPO)". Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  42. ^ "音乐总监:景 焕 (A webpage from the official website of GSYO)". Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  43. ^ "Spartanburg Philharmonic Music Director Renews Contract" (Press release). Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra (Chapman Cultural Center). 4 June 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-12.
  44. ^ Jessica Duchen (2010-01-22). "A glass ceiling for women in the orchestra pit". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-02-07.
  45. ^ Neumann, Carolin (2 February 2011). "Karen Kamensek, Dirigentin: 'Eine Frauenquote in der Musik? Unmöglich!'". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 16 December 2015. (in German)
  46. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-10-26. Retrieved 2016-01-20.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  47. ^ The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers, pp.245-46.
  48. ^ "Kim Eun-Sun, Conductor". San Francisco opera. Retrieved 2 May 2022.
  49. ^ Borroff, Edith (2003). Music Melting Round: A History of Music in the United States. Scarecrow Press. p. 289. ISBN 9781461716808.
  50. ^ Artist of the Week - Meet Brazilian Conductor Simone-Menezes Archived 2018-08-10 at the Wayback Machine "Artist of the Week - Meet Brazilian Conductor Simone-Menezes" Hello Stage, 2016-18-08
  51. ^ "Simone Menezes", Wikipedia, 2019-08-23, retrieved 2019-08-24
  52. ^ Douglas (2018-01-15). "Simone Menezes". CIDDIC (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2019-08-24.
  53. ^ "100 Most Respected Japanese (世界が尊敬する日本人100人)" Newsweek Japan, 2006-10-18
  54. ^ List of associate professors at the University of Pristina Archived 2010-05-08 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved on 6 June 2010.
  55. ^ "Conductor Helen Quach, dragon lady of the podium; 73". 11 August 2013.
  56. ^ "A Maestro for Mozart". A World to Win. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  57. ^ Curry, George E.; Webber, Brenda L.; Monroe, Sylvester; Payne, Les (2009-02-19). "a maestro". The Best of Emerge Magazine. Random House Publishing Group. pp. 324–327. ISBN 9780307514158.
  58. ^ Zeitlin, Leora (5 October 2017). "El Paso Chopin Festival continues with concerts by Mei-Ting Sun and festival founder Lucy Scarbrough". KRWG. Retrieved 2020-06-26.
  59. ^ "In Conversation with Inma Shara". Pictet Perspectives. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  60. ^ "Magdeburg Theater announced that it will welcome Anna Skryleva to the next Music Director | Around the Music Festival". Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  61. ^ "Slipped Disc | Maestra rising: Magdeburg gets new music director". 13 September 2018. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  62. ^ "In Saxony-Anhalt female conductors take over the baton | The Washington Newsday". Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  63. ^ "Nan Washburn wins the American Prize".
  64. ^ "Symphony of Southeast Texas - About". Archived from the original on 2018-04-18. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  65. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-01-13. Retrieved 2016-01-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  66. ^ Rhein, John von. "Chicago Opera Theater names new music director". Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  67. ^ "Directory of Women Leaders in Opera". The Dallas Opera. Archived from the original on 2018-04-01. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  68. ^ John Carmody (16 December 2005). "Sensitive autocrat in a season of content". The Australian. Retrieved 6 April 2008.[permanent dead link]
  69. ^ Brown, Emily Freeman (2015). A Dictionary for the Modern Conductor. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 379–380. ISBN 9780810884014.

Links to online resourcesEdit