I'm on the verge of adulthood, womanhood, self-discovery, creativity, and sometimes a whole lot of emotions! Feel free to follow my journey!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Posture and Power

Last week I went to Chicago for the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Convention. Every 2 years, ACDA has a national convention (two years ago it was in Oklahoma). One of the events at this convention is the Conducting Competition. There's an undergraduate and graduate division and for each category, 7 or 8 conductors are picked out of about 75 each. In the undergrad category there were 2 girls out of 7, and in the grad category there were 4 out of 8. Doesn't sound horrible, right?

So there I am. sitting in 4 hours of this conducting competition... And somehow, only 1 girl went on in each category and neither of them won 1st prize (they both won second, I felt like this was some kind of consolation prize...but maybe I'm just being paranoid. I kept thinking about why, in a convention made up mostly of women, there were no women who won?

Conducting is all about leadership. I started thinking, perhaps the leadership qualities that judges are looking for are typically more "masculine" qualities? Men are naturally taller and have posture and movement that stems from their upper body. Women are naturally shorter (hello...I'm 5'2") and we lead from the hips. Men's voices are deeper and often carry further because of the lower resonances.

Are we- as smart, independent, driven young women- actually sabotaging ourselves with our voices and posture? And what can we do to be taken seriously without sabotaging our true selves.

I started reading articles, like this one, The Eloquent Woman, saying that women shouldn't try to lower their voices to an unhealthy point because it can cause vocal issues like hoarseness, nodes and polyps. That website advocates finding your comfortable speaking voice for optimum power and resonance and gives other tips on "finding your voice," both literally and metaphorically.

I've written about posture a little bit before - in my voice studies I often see that men's posture problems tend to come from stiffness and women's posture problems tend to come from over arching, pulling (such as pushing your neck forward too far) or generally contorting ourselves into strange positions. Are we still holding ourselves like insecure teenagers?

In addition to learning about women's history and gaining the best education they can, perhaps there should be a course available in college on posture, voice and leadership? On looking and sounding confident, healthy and strong when making their way into the fields of their choice, especially in this economy.


  1. Some fascinating connections here...I'm always interested in the research that comes out on the ways in which women are perceived during the interview process, etc. I've also noticed that of conductors I've worked under, the orchestral tend to be exclusively male and the only women show up as choral conductors (although they've still been a minority). Something about choral conductors using more of their bodies, perhaps? Or is singing viewed as more of a feminine kind of musicianship?

  2. I think singing is definitely considered more feminine, I know my choral conductor at IC got some grief from the first orchestra she conducted because she was a woman, even though she was a well established conductor at that point.

    However, it's been really great to work under her in choirs for 4 years because she's an extremely talented and strong.