Women in Music: Conductor Victoria Bond
Career: My parents and my grandparents were musicians, so I feel I was born into it. I tried to do other things - I love theatre, painting, drawing - but music is my ultimate language. I’m proudest of the opera that I wrote, “Mrs. President,” and another piece called Molly ManyBloom, based on James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”
Turning Point: The moment when I realized I had to be a musician was a turning point for me. I was in my teens and was visiting a friend in Europe. I had been away from music for several months and I heard somebody practice piano through an open window. The sound went through me and I started to cry. It was as though I had been in the desert and someone had given me water.
Challenges: As a woman, both as a conductor and as a composer, there were so many skeptical people - teachers, friends, relatives, neighbors – who said “this hasn’t been done; you can’t do it.” When they said, “you can’t get into Juilliard, particularly as a conductor,” I was happy to undertake that. When they said, “you won’t get a job,” that was the next challenge and I was happy to view it as a challenge and not as an ultimatum.
My marriage is very unusual in that my husband and I have lived in different cities for more than half of our married life. My first job was in Pittsburgh, so I lived there, and he lived in New York City. Then, when I was music director in Virginia, for 9 years, we would sometimes be separated for as much as two months at a time. He’s an attorney, so he doesn’t move.
I have no children. I really couldn’t figure out how I could manage to be a parent as well as being in the profession I was in, because I was gone so much of the time. It was even difficult for our two cats, who used to be very unhappy every time the suitcase came out. I decided it was not a stable environment for a child. That was an early decision.
Mentors: Leonard Slatkin was my first conducting teacher at Aspen and he inspired me to be a conductor; also Jean Morel and Sixten Ehrling who taught conducting at Juilliard and Herbert Von Karajan who gave a master class. He was one of the greatest conductors in the world and he was able to effectively teach some of the ways in which he regarded music. He set the standard higher for me as a conductor than it had ever been set before.
My composition teachers, Ingolf Dahl at the University of Southern California, and then Paul (not Philip) Glass were mentors.
My first job was as assistant conductor to Dennis Russell Davies at the Cabrillo Music Festival, my second was at the Pittsburgh Symphony with Andre Previn. Both were important mentors.
Advice: Do not be discouraged by any naysayers; if you have a strong desire follow that desire. Be prepared to work hard, and the work is enjoyable so working hard is not suffering. It’s a good idea to gain some business experience to take courses at places like the Foundation Center. Musicians can learn to be self-starters. Starting a not for profit, fund raising, putting together concert series—these are important aspects of a musician’s career that are generally not taught in music schools. I have found it enormously helpful to know how to produce concerts and fund-raise, rather than waiting for people to come to me. It’s important to be self-motivating.#