Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Konstantia Gourzi about gender relations, women in leading positions, and the power of music.
Konstantia Gourzi stands in many ways for equality empowerment in classical music. She is not only a conductor and composer but also a professor. She belongs to that generation of female conductors who have done true pioneering work in order to go their own way in the male-dominated era of that time. As a composer she connects different cultures and musical traditions, as a conductor she sets priorities with new concepts and series, also in connection with other arts.
How do you manage to reconcile the three professional fields of a conductor, composer, and professor?
The one complements the other and that gives me strength. I try to plan well and not to lose my sense of humor in difficult phases.
What are the biggest challenges in your everyday life?
Mastering the time with all the tasks.
How do you perceive the gender balance in your personal working environment?
When I was a student, I didn't notice for a long time that the distribution of roles has to do with gender. When I later noticed the imbalance, I felt it was a mirror of our society. In many people, there is fear and uncertainty. Those who want to exercise the most power are the weakest.
Gender relations are the expression of a deeper human problem.
At the music academies, the gender ratio is now fairly balanced, but in the concert halls there is male dominance, why do you think that is?
(Educational) institutions such as a music academy, for example, have been increasingly confronted in recent years with "having to" engage women. The situation is different in the free market because it usually depends on the will of the organizers or the manager.
During your studies in Berlin, you attended various master classes, according to our research, exclusively with male composers and conductors. Is that correct? If not, by which female composer/conductor was you taught?
During my studies, there were very few female composers. I found it strange that there were so few - but that was the reality! Blankenburg in the context of the Mendelssohn Composition Prize, which I received during my studies in the early 1990s; was very frustrated. This encounter made me think about the "man-woman relationship" in my profession.
Being a female conductor in Germany at the beginning of the 90s was still something totally exotic and also "ridiculed".
Would you have liked to have had more female composers among your masters at that time?
During my studies, there were very few female composers. I found it strange that there were so few - but that was the reality!
Is there a secret to becoming an unmistakable artistic voice as a young aspiring musician and developing an authentic relationship with the artistic self?
To search continuously for oneself, to find one's own roots, to respect them and to remain true to one's inner voice despite the circumstances. The authentic needs courage, cheekiness, love, vision, perception, intuition.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration is associated with the urgency of a statement. The statement shows the path of inspiration. The silence helps to make the inspiration audible.
What is there to tell in the master classes for female conductors, what is special about women as conductors?
To remain true to the music, to love it, to believe in oneself, and not to try to imitate men - not to imitate anyone! - to create a career.
Women are just as good and very often even better and more flexible than men.
You taught in Berlin from 1999 to 2007 and have been Professor of Ensemble Conducting for New Music in Munich since 2002. What character do traits make a musician in a leading position particularly special today? Would you say that women are equally suited as men in leading positions in music?
Of course, women are just as good and very often even better and more flexible than men. They just get less of a chance to show what they can do. The world is more suspicious and critical when a woman gets a position early. A brain researcher would prove to us that the problem is not the woman, but the habit of the system, which usually determines our brain.
Security and leadership are two attributes that are often associated with men, and as a conductor, they decide what can be done to radiate security and leadership even as a woman?
Stay tuned and not be irritated by the circumstances.
What are the greatest challenges that classical music is currently allowed to master?
To find ways to attract the audience again. Classical music has to grow together again with the life of today. We live in the now and we must no longer hold on to the past as is currently being done. We have arrived in the year 2020 and we are behaving in many ways as we did 50 or 500 years ago.
Music has the power to change many things; it shows us a lot and we still remain largely deaf.
What can change so that in the future even more women can become conductors?
The women who want to become conductors should give it a try. It is always about the music and not about being a man or a woman. Only recently, for 4 or 5 years, it is "en-vogue" to invite a female conductor and many organizers, who a few years ago found women terrible, suddenly want to invite women to be "in". It is great that more women are invited, but the way it is done is again wrong. It's all about the content and not the packaging.
Why are women relevant to classical music?
Because of the roles in society, which have been equally distributed for several hundred years. Habit brings conditioning and conditioning kills imagination and life.
You always manage to build a bridge between musical epochs and cultures in an impressive way. What can we learn from the past in your opinion to make our future even more equal?
To listen to the past: to search for our own roots, to respect them, and to bring tradition together with new knowledge. We could create innovation, vision, awareness, and respect.
How would you say that origin and gender influence people in the classical music industry?
I strongly believe that we are influenced by our origins. Many people don't want to see it, but it's a reality and not an opinion. If we accept it, we will feel better. Gender also influences music and vice versa. There is "music interpretation" and it depends on the individual person and therefore on man or woman - but individually and not as a "genre".
Do you think that we will experience a time when women and men are equal in classical music?
I am more interested in a time where we have real respect for each other, no matter what profession or gender we have. When this is achieved with the heart, then we will no longer talk about the equality of men and women in classical music, because this topic will no longer be relevant. I wish very much that this time will come soon.