Cello: played more by women than men?

Edited: September 30, 2018, 10:10 AM · In a non-scientific blue collar survey (I just seem to be noticing it), in many videos and promotional photos, I seem to be noticing that the cellists tend to be women. I do remember seeing some men, but, just wondering if this might in fact be the case. If so, is there any reason for that?

Maybe I just tend to notice women more than men. ;-)

Replies (13)

September 30, 2018, 11:44 AM · It feels like I have known a few more female cellists than males. But then I made a list of cellists (including myself) I have been in ensembles with and there were 8 women and 13 men (not counting repeats).
September 30, 2018, 11:59 AM · At one time, it used to be that all the instruments were professionally played by only men. So what? It's changed, and will continue to change over time. Again, so what? What does gender have to do with music? Why do we persist in imagining associations when the conditions which might trigger them, including the very act of imagining those associations, change over time?
September 30, 2018, 2:42 PM · We can't count all the cellists in the world, so I'd say this i
partially coincidental. I've noticed the exact opposite with cellists, but have seemed to notice this trend with violists. I find it kind of weird.
Edited: September 30, 2018, 4:23 PM · @J Ray, I was not making a gender politics statement. I was just wondering if there was something about the ergonomics of the instrument, or perhaps, in a further reach, an aesthetic reason.

But perhaps you could give me some insights in how many PETA activists play the piano. Pretty sure they would avoid playing "Fur" Elise.

Edited: September 30, 2018, 8:28 PM · Probably coincidental. Here's an actual survey of 20 top American orchestras in 2014, with gender ratios examined by instrument:


At that time, 68% of the cellists were male, as compared to 63% of musicians overall. Women were in the majority on only three instruments: violin, flute, and harp.

I'd guess professional orchestras tend to have similar gender ratios because they draw from the same pool of conservatory graduates. In community orchestras, it seems to vary greatly from one orchestra to another. Last year, I left a community orchestra where 4 of the 5 cellists were men, and joined one where 8 of the 10 cellists are women. Both are non-auditioned and the age distribution in the two cello sections is similar (100% aged over 50). The other orchestra I play in, which straddles the line between freeway philharmonic and community orchestra and auditions for all seats, had a cello section of 5 women and 4 men at our concert last night, much younger than the two non-auditioned community orchestras (average around 40 and ranging from 24 to 70).

Edited: September 30, 2018, 8:08 PM · David, didn't you know that you can NEVER have a frank, informal discussion about gender or race any more without someone getting overheated?

I play in two chamber orchestras.
Orch No. 1 -- a youth orchestra made up of students of a private music school in my town (plus me because I take lessons in the same studio) . Violins -- 5 boys and 5 girls. Violas -- 1 middle-aged white guy (me) and 1 girl. Cellos -- 1 boy, 3 girls (including one twenty-something woman, a former student who is leading the section).
Orch No. 2 -- non-auditioned community orchestra. Violins -- 3 men and 7 women. Violas -- one man (me) and one woman. Cellos -- 1 man and 5 women.

One must be careful drawing conclusions from such small data sets. A large organization like SAA might have useful data.

I found the ensembles concert program for the summer camp that I go to with my kids (2016 data). Data is plus-or-minus based on my ability to guess the gender associated with their first names. Also doesn't count the kids who are too little to play in one of the ensembles.
Guitar: 2 girls, 12 boys.
Violin: 32 girls, 17 boys.
Viola: 2 girls, 2 boys.
Cello: 8 boys, 12 girls.

September 30, 2018, 11:17 PM · I admit, my sample data was exceedingly small. Some documentaries I watched, some concert videos, etc. 3 cello teachers I talked to at one time were women. It just caught my attention. It would be interesting to see a trend line.

Edited: October 1, 2018, 8:34 AM · Maybe it fluctuates according to who's famous.
In the Seventies there seemed to be a lot of female cellists in my area, but perhaps Jacqueline du Pré was still an inspiration then.
Otoh, my piano teacher's husband taught cello. Maybe his generation was inspired by Casals?
Julian Lloyd Webber was around in the Seventies, but I haven't listened to him since then. Maybe he caused a boom in male cellists in the 80s, or maybe he wasn't very special? dunno.

But 90% of flautists in town in the 70s seemed to be female, in spite of James Galway's fame. I spent the 80s wanting to buy a Yamaha flute on my credit card, as closure to my oboe playing, but I never got around to it. I still regret that.

(I played oboe because I was told to - they had everything else in the orchestra, but they needed a bassoonist and an oboist, and I was only 5 feet tall)

October 1, 2018, 3:03 AM · @Andrew Hsieh: That report you have posted is very interesting. Do you have or know of a similar analisis with group ages?
I would be interested to see if the newest generations are closing the gender gaps in classical music, or if it is mostly as it was.
October 1, 2018, 4:51 AM · I don't know of a similar analysis with age, but I would guess that the newest generations are closing or even reversing the gender gap. The professional string players in my area who are under 30 seem to be at least two-thirds women on all instruments except double bass.
October 1, 2018, 8:23 AM · My cellist daughter's youth orchestras (upper orchestras in the two top programs in our area) are majority male...7 of 13 in one, 9 of 14 in the other. The upper orchestra in the arts and sciences magnet high school she'll attend next year where my son is are 6 of 10 male. My daughter's teacher's students are mostly male.

The makeup of the other strings is mixed e.g. majority male violinists in one, majority female in the other. Andrew, in a very limited sample size the flutists here are 50-50 :-).

I'm very curious what the makeup is in undergrad top-tier conservatories these days.

October 2, 2018, 3:33 PM · Three of the five cellists in our amateur orchestra are women.

For what it's worth, there are a lot of good female bass players in the bluegrass world.

October 5, 2018, 6:03 PM · From what I can gather, most brass instruments have a male majority. I'm surprised by the number of female horn players. I notice a female majority on flute, and a surprising number of female double-reed players.

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