Women as Leaders of Collegiate Bands, 1850-1980

October 1, 1998

June 6, 1661 . . . Called upon this morning by Lieutenant Lambert who is now made captain of the Norwich and he and I went down by water to Greenwich, in our way observing and discoursing upon the things of a ship, he telling me all I asked him, which was of good use to me. There we went and eat [sic] and drank and heard musique at the Globe and saw the simple motion that there is of a woman with a rod in her hands keeping time to the musique while it plays, which is simple, methinks.

Won't it be funny if, let us say, one hundred years from now, a man's orchestra with a man conductor would come to be regarded as novelty in a world so changed and reformed as to depend for its music on women conductors and women orchestral players? 2

The above quotes appeared in separate issues of Frérique Petrides' newsletter, Women in Music in 1935. While one glimpses into history, the other humorously predicts the future. For the latter to come true, attitudes and situations must change very soon.

Although the percentage of women as college band conductors has increased from two percent in the early seventies3 to about 6 1/2 percent in 1995,4 a great disparity still exists between the numbers of women and men college band conductors. That disparity in numbers can be attributed to several factors. Historical and cultural attitudes that have persisted over the years, and that have perpetuated the stereotyping of women in their choices of musical occupations, may have helped to create an environment that was unfriendly to women as professional musicians.5 Because the orchestral tradition has a much longer history than that of the bands, the acceptance of women as string orchestral performers and conductors appears to have occurred earlier.

"Approximately one-half of undergraduate instrumental music majors are female in most colleges and universities";6 yet, faculties continue to be male dominated. If equity is to be realized in higher education music departments, male and female students, faculty, and administration must be aware of gender issues.

In contemporary society, women are entering professional careers that have been typically dominated by men. Many women instrumental musicians aspiring toward a career in college band conducting may experience differences between their high expectations of themselves and of the position that they pursue, and the reality that faces them on their way to, as well as on, the podium. A study of historical literature may give insight into some of the reasons for fewer women as college band conductors and may help provide us with strategies for bringing about equity between numbers of women and men college band conductors.

Although the majority of college professors are now white males, studies have shown that the numbers of women and minority faculty members are growing. With many senior faculty members nearing retirement, Wilson predicted a great increase in the number of women entering higher education faculty positions.7

Little attention has been paid to the many issues affecting women college band conductors. A greater understanding of how women band conductors' careers have evolved may have implications for women instrumental musicians aspiring toward careers in college band conducting.


Women Conductors

The numbers of women as educators demonstrated an upward trend due to the shortage of men during the Civil War. "By 1870 three out of five elementary teachers in this country were women."8 Women in collegiate teaching were located in female institutions of higher learning chartered by the United States Commission of Education and the coeducational universities and colleges. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to cite the appearances of the first women on college or university faculties because of the disagreement between authorities and historians as to which institution for "the training of young ladies . . . was the first of college caliber." Furthermore, it is difficult to determine who were the teachers during some of the early years due to the "fragmentary nature" of the existing records for the earlier schools.9

One of the first appearances of women as instrumental music faculty occurred in 1859 at the Female Collegiate Institute that was established as a department of Newbury Seminary in Newbury, Vermont. "The 1860-61 faculty consisted of five men plus Miss Caroline Lane, preceptress and teacher of painting, drawing and the French, Spanish and Italian Languages, and Miss Stevens as teacher of instrumental music."10 Other female instrumental music instructors between 1850 and 1865 included the following: Miss Martha J. Haughton of Moores Hill College; Miss Alice M. Foulke of the Iowa Conference Seminary, Mt. Vernon, Iowa. (The Seminary received a college charter and became Cornell College in 1857.); and Mrs. Eliza C. Beckwith of Kansas State Agricultural College, Manhattan, Kansas.11 In the early 1900s, women held about 27 percent of higher education faculty positions, while in 1962, they held about 22 percent of the positions.12

In Parker's historical study of women in music education in St. Paul, Minnesota, Nellie Agnes Hope (1862-1918) was identified as the first woman appointed to the music faculty of a higher education institution. She taught from 1897 to 1900 at Macalester College in St. Paul. She established and conducted the college's first Ladies' Orchestra and served in leadership roles in various music organizations.13

In the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, women in music who generally received the most acknowledgment were singers, violinists, and harpists. A bit over a century ago, George Upton wrote that:

It has become the fashion to educate all girls, indiscriminately, to play the piano, without reference to their ability or musical taste. There are other instruments which might be studied with great advantage by woman, especially the violin and harp. . . . The instrument [violin] is admirably adapted to her delicacy of taste and sensibility, and nothing but a silly prejudice keeps her from its study. There is no reason why she should not learn to play, except it may be the awkwardness of the admixture of women in orchestras.14

By the late twenties, the attitude that certain instruments and musical occupations were not suitable for women had not changed considerably; yet, women as music educators and as leaders of musical organizations were gaining acceptance. For example, Etude, a popular music magazine of the time, listed "notable" women in music. Among those women was Clara Barnes Abbott, a "distinguished musical organizer" and founder and director of the Philadelphia Music League; Zilpha Barnes-Wood, conductor, composer and teacher; Clara Baur (1835-1912), founder of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music; Mrs. Frances E. Clark, director of the Educational Department of the Victor Talking Machine Company and former Supervisor of Music at Milwaukee; and Helen L. Cramm, teacher, conductor, and composer.15



For many centuries, it was considered undignified for a woman to perform in public, much less to perform on a "masculine" instrument such as a flute, trumpet, trombone, or tuba. It was even more rare that a woman would take up the baton as her instrument. Typical of such attitudes in the late nineteenth century, George Upton wrote about women's contributions to music and their influence upon male composers: "It does not seem that woman will ever originate music in its fullest and grandest harmonic forms."16

Women's aspirations to professional or higher education realms were not encouraged.17 Mrs. Edward MacDowell recommended that women take music as a vocation rather than a career; because "a career equaled a desire to become a public performer." She expressed that successful musicians were teachers and,

their opportunities are most surely great, if taken in the right spirit, with a certain amount of humility, and the knowledge that they have great responsibility in training young people of America to love music, to make it, and, perhaps most important of all, to have them treat it as a cultural side of life, and, save with a few exceptions, a vocational one.18

Until about 1940, most instrumental music directors were men and most vocal and general music directors in the secondary schools were women. During World War II, many men went into military service, and consequently, created a shortage of instrumental music teachers. Women were encouraged to fill those positions. William D. Revelli, an advocate for more female performers in high school and university bands and orchestras,19 not only encouraged women to pursue band director positions, but pointed out that a change of attitude must take place:

In the past, conductors of professional bands and orchestras, as well as school administrators, were of the opinion that members of the female sex were not adapted to the playing of wind or stringed instruments. The thought of a young lady playing the oboe, bassoon, French horn, trombone, string bass, or trumpet brought shouts of protest from grandma and grandpa. . . . However, with the advent of our school instrumental program this "moss-covered" tradition was swept aside. . . . Women properly prepared can teach instrumental music [his italics], and many are entering this field and will be found successfully teaching and conducting instrumental programs in the future.20


"Women in Music" Newsletter

Frédérique Petrides published a newsletter entitled "Women in Music" between 1935 and 1940, when she ran out of funds.21 The newsletter reported the activities of her own all-female Orchestrette Classique in New York (of which she was the conductor), as well as other women's orchestras in America. The publication was sent free of charge to newspaper and magazine editors, libraries, music schools, institutions, and individuals in New York and elsewhere. Petrides claimed it was the "first and only publication of its kind in the history of music journalism."22 Occasionally, wind ensembles were mentioned as well. For example, it was reported that the Chicago Women's Concert Band was founded and conducted by Lillian Poenisch, principal clarinetist and one of the founders of the Woman's Symphony of Chicago. She was born in Kansas and went on to study the clarinet and conducting in Chicago. Eventually, she taught at the American Conservatory of Music.23

In addition, at least four women were conducting ensembles in Chicago in 1938. They included the following: Gladys Welge, of the Woman's Symphony of Chicago; Ebba Sundstrom, Symphonietta; Lillian Poenisch; and Fanny Arnston-Hassler, conductor of the Women's Concert Ensemble.24 In the same year, the Women's Band of the University of Wisconsin (the first of its kind in any university) was organized.25

It should also be mentioned here that Elizabeth A. H. Green, educator and author, was the first woman author of a conducting text.26 She also served as a mentor to conductors. Her conducting experience was gained primarily in the Iowa public schools in the 1940s. (The sixth edition of the aforementioned text, The Modern Conductor, was recently published).


College Band Programs

The lack of acceptance of women college band directors has been influenced by the early military traditions of many college band programs. As previously mentioned, since women were not in the military from the outset, their exclusion as band directors was inherent. In the early part of the twentieth century, the university (all-male) bands accompanied the "pass in reviews" of military cadets of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). The major land grant universities essentially set the standard for marching bands. With the passage of Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1972, it became mandatory for groups, such as marching bands, to accept women into their membership.27

Between 1938 and 1941, the "all-girl band" of Winthrop College, the South Carolina College for Women, located in Rock Hill was organized by Mark Biddle. A questionnaire given to each new student was used to gather information concerning the interest shown by the students in learning to play instruments in the band. Out of about sixteen hundred students,

. . . two-hundred and sixty of [sic] the girls were very much interested in learning to play an instrument in the band! With such a show of interest, it seems paradoxical that there are still high school bands in the country which do not allow girls to become members of the band, although I am sure that this sentiment is definitely on the way out.28

A concert band developed quickly, and a marching band soon developed. An increase in numbers occurred during the 1939-40 academic year, and the girls showed pride in their accomplishments. "We are proud of the band and the progress it has made in its single year of existence," wrote one of the band members. "With such faith and spirit on the part of the girls, it is no wonder that I feel so strongly that the school girls of our country are just as music minded as the boys."29


College Band Directors

Under the category of "Band Directors" in Women in Music: An Encyclopedic Bibliography, thirty-two women, whose biographies appear in International Encyclopedia of Women Composers, International Who's Who in Music and Musicians' Directory, Who's Who in American Music, and other similar publications, are listed. Those who were college band directors were the following: Lois Jay Kaplan, Dorothy Ann Hill Klotzman, Maxine Lane Lefever, and Eva Diane Lyle.

Lois Jay Kaplan (b. 1932) received a Bachelor of Music degree from DePaul University in 1958 and Master's degrees from University of Wisconsin at Madison and from Jacksonville University in 1963 and 1978, respectively. She studied composition with Alexander Tcherepnin and conducting with Paul Stassevitch. From 1954 to 1958, she was the conductor of DePaul University Stadium Band, and from 1956 to 1962, Kaplan was a band director and art teacher in the Chicago schools.

A current member of the College Band Directors National Association, Maxine Lane Lefever (b. 1931) is Professor Emeritus of Purdue University Bands where she was an assistant conductor between 1962 and 1979. She studied with John Noonan at Illinois Wesleyan University and had degrees from Colorado Western State College and Purdue University. Lefever taught in the public schools and in 1987, was president of the America Bands Abroad. An honorary membership in the United States Navy Band was included among awards granted to her.

Dorothy Ann Hill Klotzman (b. 1937) studied composition with William Bergsma, Vincent Persichetti, and Darius Milhaud at the Juilliard School of Music. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1948, Master of Science in 1960, and did postgraduate study at the University of Washington in 1969. Klotzman was the chair of the department of music, the conductor of the symphonic band at Brooklyn College from 1971 to at least 1987, and the first woman to conduct the Goldman Band.

Eva Diane Lyle (b. 1953) received a Bachelor of Science in Music Education degree from Hampton Institute in 1975 and a Master of Music in Music Education from Bowling Green State University in 1977. Lyle was the first woman director of bands at Xavier University in 1980.30



The purpose of this study was to reveal a historical background of women in the field of college bands. Women on the college band podium have been considered a phenomenon. The discovery of the names of those women who were pioneers in the field of college band conducting is important. These women did not allow biased attitudes to keep them from careers as conductors of collegiate bands. Having just celebrated the silver anniversary of the passage of Title IX, a look back can help us understand the present with more depth of meaning. Discrimination has been outlawed; however, it is impossible to legally mandate attitudes. Each one of us must take on the responsibility of assuring those affective attitudes such as discrimination and sex-role stereotyping do not place limitations on any person's career choice. We cannot afford to ignore half our potential.

Biased attitudes that have persisted over the years have perpetuated the stereotyping of women in their choices of musical occupations.31 The numbers of women as conductors of collegiate bands have increased since the first part of the century. Fortunately, many young women today do not know that they cannot be anything they want to be: an astronaut, a doctor, a lawyer, or a band director.

A meager amount of literature exists that specifically addresses women as college band directors. With the passage of time and awareness of the situation through further research, a conductor of an instrumental ensemble will be judged exclusively by his or her ability to facilitate the ensemble into making beautiful music. It is essential that individuals are aware of gender issues in the field of college band directing in order that they may be fully informed and advocates of gender equity in the field. Both men and women instrumental musicians should be equally encouraged to pursue the musical occupation of their choice and should realize unlimited opportunities. Whether the career choices are in instrumental, vocal, or general music, gender association does not have a place in these career paths.


1Frédérique Petrides, ed., "A Lady Conductor in Pepys' Times," Women in Music (July 1935), quoted in Jan Bell Groh, Evening the score: Women in Music and the Legacy of Frédérique Petrides (Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1991), 27.

2Petrides (November 1935) quoted in Groh, 37.

3American Music Conference, "The Women of Music," Music Journal 30, no. 1 (January 1972): 9; Nancy Barnes and Carol Neuls-Bates, "Women in Music: A Preliminary Report, College Music Symposium 14 (Fall 1974): 66-70; Adrienne Fried Block, "The Woman Musician On Campus: Hiring and Promotion Patterns," in The Status of Women in College Music: Preliminary Studies, ed. Carol Neuls-Bates (Binghamton, NY: College Music Society, 1976), vi-ix .

4Cheryl A. Jackson, "The Relationship Between the Imbalance of Numbers of Women and Men College Band Directors and the Various Issues that Influence the Career Aspirations of Women Instrumental Musicians" (Ph.D. diss., Michigan State University, East Lansing, 1996).

5Mrs. Edward Macdowell, "Woman's opportunity in Music," Etude (November 1929): 798; Carolyn Contos, "Eve Queler and Brava, Maestra!" High Fidelity/Musical America (May 1971): MA-6; Gladys Wright, "Career Opportunities for the Young Woman Graduate," School Musician, Director and Teacher (June-July 1975): 41; Carol Ann Feather, "Women Band Directors in Higher Education" (Ph.D. diss., University of Mississippi, 1980); Mary Brown Hinely, "The Uphill Climb of Women in American Music: Conductors and Composers," Music Educators Journal (May 1984): 42-45; Jane Bowers and Judith Tick, "Introduction" to Women Making Music: The Western Art Tradition, 1150-1950 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1986); Betty W. Atterbury, "Old Prejudices, New Perceptions," Music Educators Journal (March 1992): 25-27; "Women Band Directors: Old Biases in a New Age," Yamaha New Ways in Music Education (Fall 1993):1; Judith K. Delzell, "Variables Affecting the Gender-Role Stereotyping of High School Band Teaching Positions," Quarterly Journal of Music Teaching and Learning 4, 5 (Winter/Spring, 1993/1994): 77-84.

6Charles Leonard, "The Status of Arts Education in American Public Schools," Report of a survey conducted by the National Arts Education Research Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois, 1991), paraphrased in Linda Hartley, "Gender Imbalance Among College Band Directors: An Investigation of Low Female Population" (paper presented at the National Convention of Music Educators National Conference, Kansas City, April 1996), 5.

7Jean Wilson, "Moving In and Moving Up: Women in Higher Education in the 1990s," New Directions for Higher Education 70 (Summer 1990): 67-72.

8Lucille Pollard, Women on College and University Faculties: A Historical Survey and a Study of Their Present Academic Status (New York: Arno Press, 1977), 62.

9Ibid., 66.

10Ibid., 81.

11Ibid., 126-135.

12Ibid., 187.

13Linda F. Parker, "Women in Music Education in St. Paul, Minnesota from 1898 to 1957," The Bulletin of Historical Research in Music Education 8 (1987): 83.

14George P. Upton, Woman in Music (Chicago: McClurg, 1892), 203.

15Edgar A. Barrell, "Notable Musical Women," Etude (November-December 1929; January-April 1930): 805.

16Upton, 31.

17Catherine Contos, "Eve Queler" and "Brava, Maestra!" High Fidelity/Musical America (May 1971): 10.

18Mrs. Edward MacDowell, "Woman's Opportunity in Music," Etude (November 1929): 798.

19William D. Revelli, "Women Can Teach Instrumental Music," Etude (May 1943): 345.

20Ibid., 311.

21Neuls-Bates, 362.

22Frédérique Petrides, Women in Music (December 1940). Quoted in Jan Bell Groh, Evening the Score: Women in Music and the Legacy of Frédérique Petrides (Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1991).

23Petrides (September 1937), 80.

24Petrides (July 1938).

25Petrides (September 1938).

26Elizabeth A. H. Green, The Modern Conductor, 5th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1992).

27Delzell, 81.

28Mark Biddle, "The All-Girl Band of Winthrop College," Etude (June 1941): 385.

29Ibid., 385-86.

30See E. Ruth Anderson, ed. Contemporary American Composers: A Biographical Dictionary, 2d ed. (Boston: G. D. Hall, 1982); Aaron I. Cohen, ed. International Encyclopedia of Women Composers, 2d ed. (New York: Books and Music, 1987); Don L. Hixon and Don A. Hennessee, eds. Women in Music: An Encyclopedic Bibliography, 2d ed., vol. 1-2 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1993); International Who's Who in Music and Musicians' Directory, 10th ed. (Cambridge, Eng.: International Who's Who in Music, 1985); Who's Who in American Music: Classical, 2d ed., ed. Jacques Cattell Press (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1986).

31See MacDowell, 798; Contos, MA-6; Bowers and Tick; Delzell, 77; Betty W. Atterbury, "Old Prejudices, New Perceptions," Music Educators Journal (March 1992): 25; Carol A. Feather, "Women Band Directors in Higher Education" (Ph.D. diss., University of Mississippi, 1980); Mary Brown Hinely, "The Uphill Climb of Women in American Music: Conductors and Composers," Music Educators Journal (May 1984): 42; "Women Band Directors: Old Biases in a New Age," Yamaha New Ways in Music Education (Fall, 1993): 1; Gladys Wright, ed., "A Look at WBDNA," School Musician, Director and Teacher (December 1976): 59.

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