Conductor Rebecca Miller

Conductor Rebecca Miller


   A woman conductor, who had strong role models in her mother,

and a teacher who made her realize that it was possible.

Different for women

I was first aware of a difference in treatment within the profession as a Conductor when I was Assistant at Houston and there were, as in every orchestra, players who will test your boundaries.  I started to experience it more from 2005, when I started to really take on professional positions.  I found I had to work extra hard at certain things in comparison to my male counterparts.   The more women there are, doing things that women should be doing, the more women start to do them.   It’s a knock-on effect.

woman conductor with SbS

Conductor Rebecca Miller

She says:  Ask some questions so that you really know who you are.

So many interviewers ask, “What are you going to wear?”.  They never ask that of a man, everybody knows what the man’s going to wear!  It’s not a foolish question. The concept of what I wear holds much more symbolism for me. You have to be comfortable, feminine, but not too feminine, not draw attention to yourself, and it has to be YOU.  You are unique.  You have to be completely confident and at ease with yourself, which is much more challenging for a woman than a man.

 One role model  was a particular woman conductor, Nicole Paiement.   A wonderful conductor and person.   She’s currently a Director in the Music Department at UCSC (University of California, Santa Cruz).   Nicole is energetic, passionate and thorough!

Before meeting her I had never really thought about being a woman conductor.


I started in choral conducting but a friend said, just try an orchestra.

The first time I conducted an orchestra, I was absolutely certain this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.   When I was giving that up-beat and heard the sound coming back to me, I guess I was really surprised to find that 100% this was what I wanted to do, for the rest of my life.


Difference between USA and UK

Musically in America they are incredibly diffident. Here it’s much more spontaneous, from the gut.   Musicians can do anything you ask.  British musicians have this freedom, spontaneity, they just take it up.  I can feel in the musical playing there is much more of an appreciation of culture, probably because of the country and long history.

A memorable moment was

The first time that I went to Tanglewood (famous musical school in states).  There were far more musicians than  at Santa Cruz.  Here I experienced Chamber Music for the first time with other musicians.  I was so excited to make music seriously with other people of my own age rather than feeling a nerd.

Similarly, when I got to Oberlin Conservatory, I had the feeling I was in Heaven, everybody around me was so into music.  I was going to go to university, to study, but it didn’t feel like hard work because I was doing what I loved doing.


When I applied to Aspen, I didn’t get in at the top level, I was only accepted for the 8 week summer programme.  So I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to go.  Then my friend said  friends who go to Aspen came back engaged!  Well, I didn’t come back engaged.    I was doing Rhapsody in Blue, and looking for good pianists.  Danny Driver was suggested, so I went to a concert he was doing, and asked him if he would help me out.  Afterwards during a drink to say thanks and we got chatting.  Thirteen years later we’re still happily married.

We never would have met if I’d not gone to Aspen, since he lived in London.

Significant men In my life

I am American, although my mother’s father was Romanian and he, and his 6 sisters, left Romania to escape the war.   I always felt connected to Romania through the stories  my Grandfather’s told.  He was the most wonderful, gentle, caring man I ever knew.  Of all the profound things he taught me, the key one was always make a good decision as well as personal decision.

Danny’s Grandfather.  An extraordinary man, 92, done so much in his life and still had a list!  He took up painting at the age of 89.  He had an amazing way of bringing a huge amount of thought into a very short sentence, “What is the thing, what is it?”, just get to the crux of it.  He was constantly asking really deep questions.  An absolutely inspirational person.

Advice for aspiring conductors or singers.

woman conductor Miller

Rebecca Miller makes her debut at the Proms


The process of learning to be in a leading experience; when you’re learning and leading at the same time, but you have to learn how to lead.  You must learn how to balance, learning from other musicians who collectively have much more experience than you do.

As a musician you’re not holding an instrument. Your body is your instrument, and there is nothing to hide behind, so you must know who you are and be comfortable within your own skin.  A body language of insecurity, makes everybody else insecure. It is my job to make the musicians in front of me feel comfortable in order to give their best.



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