The International Orchestra Association (IOA) is set to allow female conductors to use bigger batons, to make sure they command the attention of the whole orchestra. The development came as the classical music world welcomed a historic Last Night of the Proms last night, hailing the first female to conduct the evening's programme unaided.
The new batons Up could be up to 9% greate in length, with a proportional increase in baton girth and a choice of pastel colours. IOA director Claudio Smittitio said: "All too often we've had a problem with some men in the orchestra deliberately appearing not to pay too much attention to the new breed of women conductors. Though to be fair, we've found a lot of younger less experienced players taking a "who's that waving their arms about at the front?" attitude about conductors of either sex. But bigger batons for women are, according to Smittitio more likely to command attention. "When a female conductor taps one of these biggies to signal readiness, the noise will be that much louder."
Classical Music magazine magazine has gone as far as to envisage women wielding two larger batons, one in each hand - which the board of the International Orchestra Association has dismissed as "fantasy". But the magazine as already run an eyecatching feature with a coverline referring to "Up front women with massive batons -full colour picture spread inside".
Some male conductors have reacted angrily to the news of bigger, fuller women's batons. Jeremy Smit of the Netherlands Orchestra (NO) has said a resounding "no" to the new size female batons, saying it would give women "an unfair advantage in waving". "I'd prefer to see women with smaller batons, because that would make them try harder," he is reported to have said.
Meanwhile the race is on to find a new, lighter material in which to fashion the bigger, thicker batons to be handled by a new generation of women conductors, who would be unikely to handle the full weight of the traditional male version. Jeanine Smink, conductor of the New Orleans Orchestra (NOO) is experimenting with a noo style baton with a little orange light at the end of it, which could be visible as far back as the percussion section of the 90 piece orchestra.
A recent guest violinist in New Orleans, Nigel Kennedy is a big fan of this new device. "It's like being conducted by a chick waving a massive spliff!" he giggled.