Teaching Children Integrity


March 14, 2003

A question raised on the IAWM list:

>So the dilemma, for me, is the responsibility of not jeopardizing the
careers of my students by choosing "unorthodox" repertoire VS. the passion
to eradicate nonsensical discrimination in my field. I hate being a part of
perpetuating the current system, and I struggle with this constantly, as I'm
sure many of you do. Any thoughts?<

Some thoughts:

2. I think it is important to corroborate Becky's experience by cataloging similar experiences other teachers have had -- including other types of discrimination against students. Here are couple examples of how destructive such experiences can be:

--My wife had a young woman student trombonist who was so talented she was admitted to the Trossingen Conservatory as a "Young Student" before she even graduated from high school. She placed first in the Bavarian State Solo and Ensemble competition for high school age children, but the all-male panel of adjudicators decided to not give her first prize. They gave it to a boy who came in second because "girl trombonists are not capable of further development." Unfortunately my wife was not there. The student had worked extremely hard and was so let down she went into a spin and hardly played for about a year before my wife was able to undo the damage.

--My wife had a graduate student, a grad from the Eastman School of Music, who was one of the top young trombonists in the world. As an example of her competence, at the age of 24 she was selected as a clinician for Conn trombones which would have provided partial funding for her to offer concerts and master classes around the world. She auditioned for the Bamberg Symphoniker, a top German orchestra and played the best, but was not given the job, because a trumpeter in the orchestra was opposed to working with a woman in the brass section. Even her competitors were outraged. She later won a far less desirable job in the Ruhrgebiet of Germany. This an industrial area that is not a favored place to live, and whose orchestras thus become a refuge for foreigners and women. She worked there a couple years and finally gave up work as a professional musician and now works as a translator for BMW in South Carolina.

3. When students such as Becky's or Abbie's have these experiences, it can, however, be used to teach them to endure and resist. They should learn that they are not alone, that many other women have had such experiences and have gone on to success, even if the struggle is difficult. If possible, students should read the stories of such women. For example, see:

"You Sound Like A Ladies' Orchestra: A Case History of Sexism Against Abbie Conant in the Munich Philharmonic" a

4. I don't think it is completely necessary to see the situation Becky describes as a moral dilemma. Students should be taught that they can stand by their rights and dignity as a women and be fully victorious, even if it means a struggle. Especially in the long run, they do not need to choose between success and integrity, even if many people lives their lives to the contrary. It can be an opportunity for children learn that they can live life by their own standards and that with perseverance others will follow. They can be taught that life itself is exactly an opportunity to live for justice and a better world. You can tell them that they may sometimes fail, but that they can get back up and try again and that in their struggle for the dignity of women they are part of an inexorable force of history.

5. As students become aware of patriarchy, they should be taught to avoid an attitude of bitterness and alienation. It is actually good if they learn something about these injustices at an early age, rather than having a naive idealism given a shattering blow later in life. They should be taught that some of their women friends might make more compromises than seem necessary, but that they simply lack courage and are in many respects to be seen as victims of a system of injustice.

William Osborne