BALTIMORE - Marin Alsop was appointed music director of the Baltimore Symphony on Tuesday, overcoming vigorous dissent by its musicians and becoming the first woman to head a major American orchestra.
An "overwhelming" majority of the orchestra's board voted for the appointment, said chairman Philip English. "We appreciate the participation of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and those musicians on the search committee," English said. "We held their opinions in high regard and know they will concur and rally around this decision."
English said Alsop had accepted the position and was expected to sign a contract soon. He did not release details of the contract. The musicians, who had been in rehearsal while the board was voting, said they were disappointed by what they called the "premature conclusion of the search process."
"However, this will not dampen our enthusiasm and zest for music-making," said Jane Marvine, an English horn player and chairwoman of a committee that represents the orchestra in contractual talks with management.
"We'll work together with Marin Alsop and every conductor to present the inspiring performance our audience has come to expect."
Other musicians met the news with silence, some said. The only ones inclined to speak about the appointment were the few who supported Alsop. "I think Marin is a top-notch conductor and we're lucky to have her," said Mary Bisson, who plays third horn. "I really don't understand the negative reaction. I'm delighted she's coming."
Another supporter, Ellen Orner, a first violinist, described herself as "one of the very few musicians who are happy." Orner said she thinks Alsop will bring stability. "And I think management has a workable plan that includes Marin."
Julia Kirchhausen, a spokeswoman for the American Symphony Orchestra League, said that while women conductors have headed orchestras before, Alsop's appointment marks the first time a woman has headed one of the size or status of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Alsop, a 48-year-old American who is principal conductor at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Britain, will succeed Yuri Temirkanov, who is stepping down at the end of next season. In recent years, Alsop has been lauded while working as a guest conductor with symphonies around the world.
When she was appointed in Bournemouth, she became the first woman to direct a major British orchestra. Before that, she was music director for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra for 12 years. The daughter of professional classical musicians, Alsop studied violin at the Juilliard School of Music. She trained as a conductor under Leonard Bernstein.
Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has told The New York Times that the appointment "would be a great leap forward and a significant moment in American musical history."