April 3, 2010 at 08:33 PM ·

With regard to the current poll as to whether the title should perhaps be "concertmistress", there's always the English term - leader.

Replies (26)

April 3, 2010 at 10:22 PM ·

You call her concertmaster also.  We tried concertmistress decades ago, and it never quite rang true and has some negative and sexist associations. 

April 4, 2010 at 09:03 AM ·

If it were me (a female) I'd definitely prefer  Concertmaster....  

Concertmistress or concertleader????ugh..definitely not...

April 4, 2010 at 11:06 AM ·

Using a unisex term also prevents the embarrassing mistake I refer to on Laurie's blog... 

April 5, 2010 at 01:14 AM ·

No, not "concertleader". Here in England, the principal first violin is called the leader. From The LSO's web site - - Gordan Nikolitch (Leader)


April 5, 2010 at 06:56 AM ·

I suppose it wouldn't hurt to ask her what she wanted to be called.  

This brings to mind a story I heard once, though:  the concertmaster of some orchestra was terrible, but she was the conductor's girlfriend -- so everyone referred to her as the "concertmattress."  


Ba-dump tsssh.

May 26, 2010 at 04:45 PM ·

Hasn't this topic been done to death in the archives? Ask the lady sitting in the first chair what she wants to be called, end of story. I personally don't know anyone who cares.

I'm curious though, what's so "negative and sexist" about "concertmistress"? It's just the feminine form of the word. Lots of languages have lexical gender.

May 26, 2010 at 05:23 PM ·

maybe done to death - but there's always a new perspective.  IMO you should use a sexless word unless there is a need for it.  I grew up with 'Leader of the orchestra' .  I think that is not only better with respect to PC or lib or, for that matter simple-simplicity - but also for accuracy for isn't that exactly what they do.  I mean what does 'concertmaster' mean anyway?

Drop the CM, take me to your Leader I say... :D

May 26, 2010 at 09:17 PM ·

Ugh, but that offends my aesthetic sensibilities--"concertmaster" or "concertmistress," either one, is so much sexier than "leader." ;-)

May 27, 2010 at 12:53 AM ·

perhaps after all, its just what we are used to...

May 27, 2010 at 03:11 AM ·

As a female concertmaster/mistress/leader - all of the above are fine :)

We actually just stick with concertmaster - I have a female co-concertmaster and using the term co-concertmistresses might just be a bit much!!!

Megan :)

May 27, 2010 at 03:54 AM ·

CM works just fine.

May 27, 2010 at 04:11 AM ·

Actually, upon further reflection, I've realised that I use "concertmaster" to those who know what it is, and "leader" with those who don't really know much about orchestras.

May 27, 2010 at 10:03 AM ·

I take it most members are from the western end of the atlantic :D

I wonder if a european would even know what a concertmaster (let alone mistress) actually is...

May 27, 2010 at 10:53 AM ·


my understanding was that a `concert-mistress` is the lady twenty years younger than your wife whom you take to concerts because you found out too late that the aforesaid spouse can no longer stand being in the same room as you,  never mind in an adjacent seat for a couple of hours.

What happens afterwards depends largely on how well the orchestra played....



May 27, 2010 at 10:58 AM ·

Buri - after that explanation I can safely assure you that I will never refer to myself (or any female orchestral leader) as a concert-mistress ... ever...:)


May 27, 2010 at 12:24 PM ·

I prefer the Italian word "spalla".

May 27, 2010 at 03:43 PM ·

Elise--my understanding is that the word "concertmaster" is a direct translation of the German "Konzertmeister," so I imagine plenty of people on the Continent would know what a concertmaster is. ;-)

May 27, 2010 at 04:01 PM ·

This is a nice review:



May 27, 2010 at 04:33 PM ·

Mara wrote:

"Elise--my understanding is that the word "concertmaster" is a direct translation of the German "Konzertmeister," so I imagine plenty of people on the Continent would know what a concertmaster is. ;-)"

Ooops!  So thats why England is an Island :)  Is that the only country that used 'leader' then?

Which begs the question if a female Konzertmeister is a Konzertgeliebte :)

May 28, 2010 at 11:45 AM ·

You can call me a concertmistress when we live in a world where there is a presidentess, or a lawyeress, or a dentistess, or a doctoress, or a directoress.  Until then you may call me concertmaster.

May 28, 2010 at 11:54 AM ·

I don't understand: none of those original names are intrinsically masculine.  A doctor can be male or female but a concermaster implies a man (at least linguistically). 

To take an extreme example, what if convention dictated that all violinists must be referred to as 'Mister'?  Would that not rankle a bit?


May 28, 2010 at 03:19 PM ·

Unfortunately, terms such as "concertmaster" are so embedded in the consciousness of the English-speaking world that it is extremely difficult and highly unlikely that a non-sexist term will ever be acceptable as replacing it comfortably. And the terms in other languages that you all have mentioned seem to have the same problem.

However, in the interests of furthering the cause, perhaps we should try a more creative approach than an ordinary term like "leader." How about some of these?....

- Your Royal Concertship
- OMPM (Orchestral Music Project Manager)
- Grand Instrumental Poobah
- Exalted Tuner-Upper
- Conductor-In-Waiting
- Best Violinist
- Musical Administrative Assistant
- Fingering-and-Bowing Supervisor

:) Sandy

May 28, 2010 at 04:15 PM ·

Sandy - love it!

[but note: last time I checked England is in the english speaking world - and they use leader]

May 28, 2010 at 08:01 PM ·

Just to really stir the pot - we sometimes wonder if the USA is in the English-speaking world. Two nations divided by a common language! Just for quick examples - to us, pants are what you wear UNDER trousers, and a trunk is something you would put in the car boot.

I shall now duck under something substantial!


May 28, 2010 at 09:55 PM ·

Not to mention what we call an eraser... (can I hide with you, Malcom...)

May 28, 2010 at 11:12 PM ·


let`s not mention `fanny-packs`   either....



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