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Female conductors, trailblazers taking the spotlight this weekend at Ravinia

Female conductors take stage this weekend at Ravinia
Female conductors take stage this weekend at Ravinia 02:46

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (CBS) – Female conductors are in the spotlight. A music festival kicking off this weekend is celebrating those breaking barriers in a male-dominated field.

But as CBS 2's Marissa Perlman explained Wednesday, some of those trailblazing this path say there's more work to be done.

It's not what you may expect a "maestro" to look like.

On Ravinia's main stage, you'll see not one, but three female conductors take the podium -- leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

"It's more likely a woman would lead a G7 nation or become a 4-star general than lead a major American orchestra."

Marin Alsop, the chief conductor of the Ravinia Music Festival, has paved the path as the first woman to lead a major American orchestra.

"It's a sad fact that it took so long for a woman to break through to that level," she said. 

The numbers show just how rare it is for women in music to get the top job. According to the League of American Orchestras, a little more than nine percent of women in U.S. orchestras have the title of music director.

When Marin started her career in the 1980's she thought other women would follow -- but when they didn't.

"I decided to start a fellowship to give women opportunities," she says.  

She started the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship -- which provides career support to future female conductors.

Breaking Barriers, a festival at Ravinia will celebrate the program's 20 years and the women in it.

One of those fellows, Laura Jackson, is now music director for the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra.

"It's a great honor," Jackson said.  

She calls what will happen this weekend on this stage history in the making.

"I never thought I would be at a major summer festival and have so many fabulously talented women maestros around me," she said.

But both women say there's more work to be done to build their community.

"We have all been lone wolves out there and there has just been a small handful of us out there conducting," Jackson said. 

"The Old Boys Network has been out there for hundreds of years. We need an Old Girls Network, so we're working on it," Alsop said.

Breaking Barriers Women on the Podium featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra kicks off Friday AT 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Ravinia. Tickets are still available

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