As one of the few women leading a professional symphony orchestra in the United States, South Florida Symphony Music Director Sebrina Maria Alfonso knows a thing or two about the so-called “glass ceiling.”

“It doesn’t help that this is a scary time for the arts,” Alfonso explained, noting the financial stress the Great Recession has placed on non-profit arts organizations. “There are more and more women conductors, but it doesn’t help that many orchestras are in trouble and tend to make safer bets….that makes the field smaller and doesn’t leave a lot of room for women.”

And, for a female conductor who also happens to be a lesbian, the opportunities can be even fewer and far between. Faced with going back in the closet, Alfonso made a decision not to “live somewhere where I have to be closeted again,” she recalled.

“Just as the current generation of children have only known a black president, in 10 or 15 years, if orchestras survive — like gay rights — our patrons will be more open minded and accepting.”

Even if the South Florida Symphony is “the orchestra with a lesbian conductor,” Alfonso knows that ultimately it’s the music she makes that must speak to audiences and break down barriers.

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