Congratulations to Michelle Merrill

The Detroit Symphony just announced that Michelle Merrill has been appointed the orchestra’s new Assistant Conductor.

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According to the DSO press release,

As Assistant Conductor, Merrill will act as cover conductor for all classical series concerts, as well as conduct DSO’s Young People’s Family Concerts, Education Concert Series programs, and occasional Pops series programs.

Merrill is a rising star in the conducting world, and was the recipient of the Ansbacher Conducting Fellowship in 2013.  In an interview with the Detroit News where, predictably, the gender question was raised:

Merrill stands out in the conductor field on two counts. First, at 30, she’s young in a profession that ordinarily favors age. In addition, she acknowledges she’s the rare woman in the field, but shrugs off any significance to that. (She is not, however, the first woman in this position at the DSO.)

“I don’t ever really think about it,” Merrill says, “but it is unusual. When I’ve done conducting workshops, I’d often be the only woman. But it never occurred to me I needed to break some glass ceiling or anything,” she adds. “Conducting is just what I wanted to do.”

Which is to say that I am hopeful that even though it is painfully slow, progress is being made.  There have been several notable appointments this year which is slowly challenging who a conductor is supposed to be, and look like.  And perhaps with each new appointment the gender question will become less compelling to interviewers.

Congrats to Merrill and best of luck in the new position!

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