Without Any Apologies for Their Sex: A Celebration of Women at Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music

We are pleased to announce the launch of our latest exhibition which celebrates the contribution of women to Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music since its inception in 1872. The display runs from 15 January – 24 March 2016 and can be found just inside the entrance to the library. External visitors: please contact the library in advance to arrange access. This blog post summarizes the exhibition for those unable to visit in person.

Student Edith Bird with her piano teacher Gordon Saunders, ca.1907-1912. In the early days of the college women overwhelmingly studied either piano or singing. TCM 15/4.

When Harold Rutland wrote his 1972 centenary history of Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music), he filled its pages with the names and faces of men. At that time, women were absent from senior management roles and their impact in other areas was marginalized. However, take a closer look at the archives held here in the Jerwood Library and a different story emerges. As students, teachers and examiners, women contributed in innovative and pioneering ways to the success of the institution. This exhibition recovers their voices from the obscurity of the historical record. It is the story of how women made Trinity Laban the institution it is today.

Students

Trinity College of Music was initially set up in 1872 as a training college for church music. As such, it focused on choral singing and organ playing, both areas then dominated by men. But the college soon expanded to cover other aspects of music education, and a programme of local examinations was initiated. These were extremely popular with young ladies around the country and led to growing numbers entering the college as students. In 1900, just over half of matriculated students were women. Yet women students were not fully integrated into the life of the college: they were taught in special ‘ladies’ classes’ and successful women diploma candidates were listed separately from their male counterparts. Women’s musical studies were also overwhelmingly limited to theory classes, piano and singing. Violin was studied only by a handful of women, in keeping with contemporary norms.[1]

TCM prog 4 Dec 1924

TCM concert in 1924 shows an even gender balance among string-playing students. TCM 6/6.

The taboo associated with women instrumentalists was, however, about to break. A concert programme from 1924 is striking in its gender balance across all string instruments, including Jessie Mason on double bass. Women also began to study wind instruments. In the 1950s scholarships were awarded to Michelle Croll, Anne Boyce, Mary Brenchley, Jane Alderson, and Beatrice Hussey on flute, Barbara Graham and Jean Titcombe on oboe, and Sylvia Thomas on clarinet.

In spite of this growth in accomplished female instrumentalists, opportunities in professional orchestras were limited. Henry Wood recruited six female string players to his Queen’s Hall orchestra in 1913 but other UK orchestras were slow to appoint women to permanent posts. The LSO remained resolutely all male until the late 1970s.[2]

By the 1980s women students were on an entirely equal footing with their male counterparts at Trinity. Scholarships, prizes and performance opportunities were all split equally between genders. Women were also represented across all instruments, including on brass and percussion, two areas which had previously been little studied by women.

Staff

In common with other conservatoires, women were largely excluded from teaching positions at Trinity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, although they were prominent as local music teachers. In 1880, only two women professors were employed by the college: Alma Sanders on piano and Kate Steel for singing. Sanders was also a composer and in 1884 won the college’s chamber music prize competition and ten guineas for her piano quartet. By 1900, the numbers had expanded slightly and Doris Dalton had been appointed to teach violin, in spite of the continuing prejudice towards women violinists. In 1897 a reviewer had described Dalton, rather patronizingly, as a ‘clever young violinist’ after a recital at St. James’ Hall, a large and grand concert hall then in Piccadilly.[3]

Finzi Bagatelles cover

Gerald Finzi’s Five Bagatelles was written for Pauline Juler, professor of clarinet at TCM. 781.3 FIN.

During the first half of the twentieth century, numbers of women professors steadily increased. One of these was Pauline Juler, a clarinettist who had studied at TCM and was now making a name for herself, against all odds, as a chamber musician and recitalist. As The Musical Times noted, she was undoubtedly a good clarinettist ‘without any apologies for her sex’.[4] In 1943 Juler recorded Harold Ferguson’s Octet with leading musicians of the day including horn player Denis Brain, and the year later Gerald Finzi wrote his Five Bagatelles for her. Finzi also had Juler in mind for his clarinet concerto but Juler’s performing career had meanwhile come to an abrupt end on her marriage (though she did continue to teach into the 1960s).

By 1980 the college had begun to resemble the modern institution it is today. The corporation included two women members and the teaching staff were represented on the college board by Lettice Stuart, a long-standing teacher in the junior department. Administrative staff included a female librarian and welfare officer. As professors, women were still not represented evenly across all instruments (they were notably absent from the brass department) but were particularly prominent as singing teachers, as indeed they had always been. Valerie Cardnell, for instance, taught singing at the college for around twenty years from 1965. She was also an active member of the Society of Women Musicians, an institution founded in 1911 in reaction to the (then) male-only Society of British Composers.

Valerie Cardnell 1972

A stately-looking Valerie Cardnell leaving Westminster Abbey after a service of thanksgiving to mark TCM’s centenary in 1972. Note how she is surrounded by men in this picture: women were still in the minority among professors and senior management at this time. VC 6.

Examiners

With growing numbers of women achieving music qualifications, and with limited professional outlets for them as musicians, some Trinity women were recruited by the college as examiners. At first the numbers were small; between 1874 and 1900 only three out of 144 public examiners were women. But the numbers grew and women examiners came to play a crucial role in cementing the global reputation of the college. Examining was not, however, an easy option. The rapidly expanding network of examination centres meant that examiners had to travel extensively across the globe for long periods of time. As Jay Thomas reported after her first examining tour of India in 1967, ‘I have lived seven years of experience in seven weeks’.[5]

Women travelled all over the world examining for the college. Data compiled from TCM Bulletins, 1965-1969.

Women travelled all over the world examining for the college. Data compiled from TCM Bulletins, 1965-1969.

Mary Tweedie was one of the earliest women to gain recognition for her examining work. She toured the world many times over during fifteen years as an examiner in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, at one point taking charge of an administrative crisis at the Johannesburg centre. The local secretary in New Zealand deemed her to be ‘the finest ambassador Britain ever had’.[6] She also represented the college at prize givings in her native Scotland, distributing awards and giving the address on at least two occasions. After her death in 1963 a correspondent to The Times wrote:

She had a mind steeped in music, literature and poetry, and an exceptionally retentive memory with an imaginative skill as a story-teller which enchanted old and young alike … A host of friends throughout the world will mourn the loss of a warm-hearted, endearing and unique personality.[7]

In the 1960s, perhaps owing in part to the success of Mary Tweedie, the proportion of women examiners rose quite dramatically from around eight per cent in 1960 to twenty-five per cent in 1970. One of these was Marjorie Jaco, an organist, choirmaster and conductor who claimed to be the first woman to conduct at the Royal Festival Hall. Over the course of her examining career she travelled three times around the world, lecturing in Canada, Sri Lanka, India and the Antipodes, and broadcasting programmes in Canada and New Zealand, alongside her examining commitments.

Women examiners 1968

The proportion of women examiners rose considerably in the 1960s. Marjorie Jaco, Sonia Melville and Mavis Walker all joined the ranks in 1968. TCM Bulletin May 1968.

Junior Department

Trinity’s junior department, the first of its kind in the UK, began in 1906 with a partnership between the college and London County Council. It was initially run by John Warriner but after his death in 1934 Gladys Puttick was appointed to lead the department. She was already director of music at Queen’s College, Harley Street and had a private teaching practice in Wigmore Street teaching musicianship and piano. Puttick had an innovative approach to creative musicianship, something she had developed from her mentor Dr Yorke Trotter at the London Academy of Music. She remained head of the junior department for forty-two years and her influence was deep and long-lasting. Jane Daniels recalled ‘without Gladys Puttick, I probably would never have become a professional musician’. Similarly impressed was the conductor Barry Wordsworth who has said,

‘She was quite simply extraordinary … without her I cannot imagine how things would have gone’.[8]

In 1976 Puttick was succeeded by Lettice Stuart who maintained the ethos of Puttick’s teaching. Musicianship classes remain a core strength of the department to this day.

Gladys Puttick TCM 16.2.3

Gladys Puttick teaching a musicianship class to junior students in 1963. Note the roughly even gender balance among her pupils. Photograph © Michael Ward. TCM 16/2/3.

Current Situation

Today, there is a good gender balance across Trinity Laban. The latest equality statistics reported a roughly equal split among staff overall, as well as among senior post holders. There is also an even gender balance among music students. At Trinity College London (the exam board which separated from TCM in 1992), 103 out of 240 music examiners are now women (as of November 2015), a respectable legacy for the likes of Mary Tweedie and Marjorie Jaco .

Individual music faculty women also continue to blaze a trail for gender equality. In 2013, composition teacher Errollyn Wallen became the first ever female recipient of the Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music. Dr Sophie Fuller, programme leader for the MMus and MFA courses, researches gender and sexuality in music and is the author of the Pandora Guide to Women Composers. And as part of last year’s International Women’s Day, two female jazz students, Rosie Turton and Nubya Garcia, were featured in London Jazz News.

But gender imbalances still prevail in the wider music profession. In the 2015 BBC Proms season women accounted for only 30% of instrumental soloists, 36% of living composers, and just 4% of conductors. Meanwhile, the majority of UK music teachers are female — a recent Making Music report put the figure at 71% of all teachers preparing students for ABRSM or TCL examinations. Women, therefore, continue to occupy the lowest paid, lowest profile jobs in the music profession, while men dominate on the public stage.

References

[1] Cyril Ehrlich, The Music Profession in Britain since the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), p. 157. On the broader history of women in music see also Lucy Green, Music, Gender, Education (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997) and Tick, Judith, et al. “Women in music.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online (Oxford University Press) <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/52554pg2> [date accessed: 18 September 2015].

[2] Richard Morrison, Orchestra: the LSO. A Century of Triumph and Turbulence (London: Faber, 2004), p. 187.

[3] ‘Concerts and Recitals’, The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 38, 651 (1897), p. 316.

[4] ‘London Concerts’, The Musical Times, 78, 1137 (1937), p. 991.

[5] ‘News and Views of our Examinations Overseas’, TCM Bulletin, 7 (1968), 11-16 (p. 16.).

[6] Harold Rutland, Trinity College of Music: the First Hundred Years (London: Trinity College of Music, 1972), p. 38.

[7] ‘Miss Mary Tweedie’, The Times, 4 October 1963.

[8] Cassal, Anne, Junior Trinity: 100 Years, 1906-2006 (Ann Cassal, 2006), p. 30.

 

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2 thoughts on “Without Any Apologies for Their Sex: A Celebration of Women at Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music

  1. Excellent article, Emma.
    I am so glad to see that photo of Gladys Puttick – exactly as I remember her. She was indeed a memorable and remarkable teacher, and had a lovely way with both students and children. A truly inspirational lady.
    Mike Lester (Student 1957-60)

  2. Interesting the article features 1972 prominently, just a year before I went there. There were definitely women on the staff then in various capacities, academic, instrumental and administration. My violin teacher was Henriette Canter, various musicianship with Felicity Young, Lettice Stewart, Vera Cantrovich and Pam Glynn the librarian.

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