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International Women's Day - meet with Sylvia Hsu Man-hsuan

Sylvia Hsu Man-hsuan (feat. Vincent Tsai) sharing thoughts after watching the 2021 documentary 'The Conductor'

Musician, guzhen player, music industry insider - Sylvia Hsu Man-hsuan

Dear music lovers,

How’ve you been? The 2021 documentary ‘The Conductor’ that tells the story about a woman conductor Marin Alsop is recently released in Taiwan and raised the public awareness of the role being a female conductor in the classical music industry and the obstacles awaiting to be overcome still nowadays. We remain optimistic by the fact that the gender equality draws its attention to the public as it should have been but neglected for a long time. Not only the sex ratio of senior positions in the organization is to be considered but also the topics such as achievement, salary, development, and the stereotype images of the female employees and across the genders are gradually coming to the surface.

The International Women’s Day is on March 8th every year. It started in the early 20th century with a series of social movement by female workers fighting for their basic right and protesting against sex employment discrimination. By the 1970’s, the day was celebrated by the United Nation and became an international holiday, having said that, it wasn’t officially recognized as a holiday until recently in many regions in the world.

With the coming of the International Women’s Day, we are thrilled to jump on the bandwagon and invite the successful musician, guzhen player, music industry insider Sylvia Hsu Man-hsuan along with her Kite Flying Band partner accordionist Vincent Tsai to share thoughts from/after watching the documentary. Sylvia is currently at the position of the music director of Wind Music’s sub-brand Spiritlands and produced various award-nominated and highly reputed albums in the past.

Kite Flying Band - Sylvia Hsu Man-hsuan & Vincent Tsai

As a female musician, Sylvia has empathy with the spirit and the determination that lies within Marin Alsop given that the time during Ms. Alsop’s study, female conductor is extremely rare. And even if there is one, she would not have the chance to step on to the professional podium. Despite of constantly being told by others that she would not have chance to become a professional conductor, Ms. Alsop still showed her utmost energy striving to demonstrate her will, pursuing her dream and desire deep in her soul. Vincent also adds that how interesting to see the change of attitude from the male orchestra players from being contemptuous to gradually overwhelmed by her artistic level of leading the ensemble.

Gender stereotype in music industry

Sylvia expressed the concern that gender stereotype is one of the most common schemas that people consciously/unconsciously applied to when it comes to, say, almost every aspect in our daily life. In her experience, there are more female music students than male students in academy in Taiwan. Compared to boys, girls are more likely to be encouraged to study music since their childhood and thus in their academical choice. The society implies the differences of the character between women and men leading to the different career choice that: boys are considered to be active, rational, and motivated while girls are often being seen as passive, emotional, and weak. Put the doubt why people with above character are considered to be more suitable to study music aside, the stereotype can only be justified through the stereotype itself; to wit, the stereotype is constructed and fortified by the society instead of by their essence.

Vincent further pointed out that, Ironically, the sex ratio does not remain the same if we look into the professional field. Women very often have to give in their professional career development once they stepped into different stages in their life. That could happen due to the conservative expectation to a married woman, giving birth to and mothering children, etc. Women are likely to left the workplace if the social secure system and the workplace environment were insufficient to support a career woman. And the conditions are particularly harsh to women working as a musician without being under a shelter of a contracted firm.

Accordionist - Vincent Tsai

Diversity is one of the important elements for art to be nurtured. That diversity should include all genders. Sylvia and Vincent both mentioned that in this documentary, some music critics have noticed certain uniqueness and tastefulness interpretation that Ms. Alsop conducted as no other male conductors would have done. That is a clue that composition, artistic creation from various genders is an indispensable piece of puzzles to flourish the world of art. As a music producer, Sylvia has always been looking forward to listening to more diversity, interpretation, and notion.

A message on International Women’s Day

Sylvia holds the belief that all life flow towards a broader side. Our mindset should be free from bias towards gender. As people having a deeper insight on love, we may balance better on the gender equality regardless in music industry, family role, social perspective, etc. She also found that what women with great influence in the world have in common is that they will not be easily defeated by how others think of them and treat them. On contrary, they reflected their own experience and transformed it into limitless and fearless energy to change, affect, and help people in need.“We Are One” composed by Tanya Chua is theme song of Project WAO (Women As One), which is a series of tour charity concerts launched by Tanya Chua, Sandy Lam, A-Mei, and Na Ying, aimed at evoking the public attention to abused adolescent girls right. Sylvia considered the song is the best to commemorate the International Women’s Day. The spirit of the lyric chimes in with what Sylvia previously mentioned: that all the disputation and bias shall be overcome by love, the love to one’s true self, the loyalty to one’s true character, and, the respect to everyone’s distinction.

In the end, Sylvia would like to share: Sylvia was quoted as saying. That was her message to all on this day.

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