Women’s History : Claire Gibault

Music conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, and it is also a male-dominated profession with only 8% of orchestras around the world today being conducted by women. In the last few decades, this has been combatted with many driven and talented women breaking into the field, and one of these women is Clair Gibault.

Claire Gibault was born in Le Mans, France in 1945. She has been studying and playing music all her life, and she has won many awards for her skills, such as First Prize for violin at the Le Mans conservatory of music and First Prize for conducting the CNSM orchestra in Paris. She went on to pursue a musical conductor and director career and has lead many concerts in Europe and the United States.

In 2019, Claire Gibault cofounded La Maestra with Paris Mozart Orchestra (which was created by Gibault) and Philharmonie de Paris. La Maestra is an annual music conducting competition for women. She cofounded this competition to highlight how few women are selected for conducting gigs, and to encourage change by shining a literal spotlight on the wonderous talent of women conductors around the world. When asked why she decided to create this competition, she talked about a moment in 2018 that inspired her to enact change:

“In 2018, I was the only female jury member of a conducting competition in Mexico. There were such sexist attitudes on the part of certain jurors that I was shocked. One man on the jury even said that women were biologically incapable of being conductors, because their arms were naturally turned outward to hold babies. Whenever a female contestant came up in the competition, this man would cover his face with his jacket, close his eyes and plug his ears. One female finalist who was very musical and very talented received as many votes as a young man to whom the jury gave the first prize. I found that very unfair.”

Gibault’s efforts through La Maestra for women to be seen as equals in this industry have been working, and they can be seen in the new film, Tár, starring Cate Blanchett. Blanchett plays Lydia Tár, a world-renowned musical conductor and the influence of power. You can check out Tár at our library by clicking here.

Read the NYT’s interview with Claire Gibault here.

Learn about La Maestra, the worldwide conducting competition for women, here.

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