Monday, 11 February 2013

Can Women play the Horn?

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Your probably haven’t heard of Ms Abbie Connaut. A German woman who played the horn.

The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra hadn’t heard of her when she wrote asking for a horn audition. If they had they probably wouldn’t have thought she was a man and written her a letter inviting Mr. Connaut to an audition.

This gender confusion was more than comical. It was useful and Abbie knew it. Women were thought to be unable to play the horn. Their lungs weren’t strong enough. They were flute or violin players – not horns.

Amazingly, at the audition, the gender confusion continued. As Abbie walked on to the stage to play she found herself playing from behind a screen that shielded her (and her gender) from the judges. Originally set up to prevent nepotitism (one of the auditionees had a parent in the orchestra), the screen had a bigger impact than anyone expected.

For as Abbie played, the judges made their decision. This was the person they wanted. So much so that when she finished, all candidates were sent home – many without playing a note.

The committee called for Mr Connaut to return to the stage to meet them. Their shock at meeting Mrs Connaut led one to express, “It can’t be – women don’t play like that.”

The committee had a negative view of women (at least when it came to horns). It took an administrative error and a rather special screen to provide a chance to test their view. And disprove it.

What about you?

Where does your negative view lie? Another generation – the young?, the old? Another income group – people on benefits perhaps or maybe bankers’? Those who follow a religion? or those with none?

If you felt a twinge of recognition reading that last paragraph – then I have a more important question for you.

When did you last make space to meet someone who just might disprove it? 

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