Introducing WMLON: The Women’s Musical Leadership Online Network

Hamer, Laura and Minors, Helen Julia (2023). Introducing WMLON: The Women’s Musical Leadership Online Network. In: Cimardi, Linda and Nenić, Iva eds. Women’s Leadership in Music: Modes, Legacies, Alliances. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, pp. 141–152.



Musical leadership, across many musical genres, remains male dominated. Musical leadership itself is often constructed as residing in male authority figures, quintessentially exemplified in classical music through the maestro conductor. This ‘maestro myth’ (as Norman Lebrecht characterised it, 1997) has been perpetuated since the mid-nineteenth century through the ‘maestro writing tradition’ of male conductors from Berlioz (1843) and Wagner (1869), through Stokowski (1944), Furtwängler (1953), and Boult (1963), to Boulez (2003). This chapter shifts the spotlight to considering women’s musical leadership and explores the impetuses behind the founding of the Women’s Musical Leadership Online Network (WMLON), by the authors in 2019, and its initial findings. With the dual aim of both researching women’s musical leadership and acting as a support network for women musical leaders and potential leaders, WMLON interrogates the current context of women in musical leadership with a specific focus on three areas: women in the music industries, women in educational leadership, and women leading contemporary musical practices. WMLON asserts that women’s approaches to leadership are often different to those of men and calls for women to take ownership of this difference as a positive. Women are more likely to take part in ‘transformational’ training and are often ‘more participatory, democratic and interpersonally sensitive’ as leaders (Rhode, 2019). This chapter acknowledges that there are feminist ways of knowing-doing and interrogates the need for women to have mentors, training, and support to break ‘glass-ceilings’.

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