Leading Ladies

10 inspiring and powerful women offer advice on how to take charge and make a difference



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Virginia Symphony Orchestra Music Director JoAnn FallettaJoAnn Falletta

Occupation: Music Director; Virginia Symphony Orchestra

What makes her inspirational: When asked about her accomplishments, JoAnn Falletta does not talk about her pair of Grammy awards, nor about her extensive and acclaimed discography, nor does she say that she helms three orchestras. (Music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic and of our VSO, and principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra—the first woman and the first American to hold that last position.) Only in passing does she mention that she is sought after, worldwide, as a guest conductor. 

She won’t tell you that she is awesomely intelligent, invariably knowledgeable and vibrantly articulate, fiercely energetic and unfailingly generous with her time, be it rehearsing a local youth orchestra or conversing with individual student musicians or smalltime journalists.

What she talks about is the Hampton Roads community, and about how pleased she is that she and the VSO have forged important and strong connections with this region, and become part of the fabric of Hampton Roads, within and beyond its arts community.

That combination of international achievement with genuine, self-effacing modesty and totally other-directed focus is truly inspiring. What do you feel has been the key to your success? “I suppose the answer to that is really very simple—I absolutely love what I do. I find orchestral music completely inspiring, uplifting and endlessly fascinating. And I adore musicians—their complexity, dedication, excellence, imagination and charisma. Being a conductor is living the dream that began when I was 7 years old.”

What has been your proudest moment? “My proudest moment was at 10 p.m. on April 15, 1997—the moment when the Virginia Symphony finished our concert on the stage of Carnegie Hall. It was a magnificent concert—one of the greatest moments in our history—and a night I will never forget. I remember all of us looking at each other with a kind of amazed happiness. We never thought the concert would go so spectacularly well! The musicians proved to our community that they were a first-class orchestra, and we were so proud to represent our region.”

What’s the best advice you can offer young women? “Find something you love, and do it with 100 percent of your energy, spirit and commitment.”

—Montague Gammon III

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