Judith Bailey - Musician & Conductor of the Penzance Orchestral Society


What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement was probably being accepted into Conducting Class with Maurice Miles at the Royal Academy of Music. There were four places and four men!! So he took all five of us.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I was advised to teach on leaving the Royal Academy (which was the safe option) and did so for financial necessity, teaching peripatetic woodwind in Hampshire. But my love of conducting/composition and the freelance world beckoned...so, having no gift or skill for teaching which made itself felt in some minor health worries, I left teaching in schools at the age of 30 and never looked back! I've been fortunate.. NOT always financially worry-free but I’ve managed, and enjoyed some college and adult teaching in later years with two orchestras inviting me to conduct, for almost 30 years.

What do you owe your mother?

I loved conducting to the radio when I was a small child and borrowed one of my mother's knitting needles to do so! She was always a great support and, as I was conducting regularly from the age of 28, she was able to attend many concerts during the next 16 or so years.  

Which women inspire you and why?

 Being born and growing up in Cornwall the Radford sisters were a great inspiration. They were brilliant women and ran the County Music Festival; they also founded Falmouth Opera in which Evelyn played and Maisie conducted.  

What are you reading?

I love reading and am currently reading Claire Tomalin's autobiography.

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?

 As a conductor you are too busy to take too much notice of chauvinistic comments, though there were a few many years ago such as "you are competing with men etc". I ignored it and got on with the job. It's MUCH easier these days!

How can the world be made a better place for women?

This is an improving situation I think, especially in recent years with many women in top jobs - musical and otherwise.

Describe your perfect day?

Feeling gratitude for my seaside home, music, friends calling. I am NEVER bored and life is full of surprises .

We've noticed there really aren't many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?

Possibly a statue of the Radfords? There have always been women who broke down barriers and did their own thing.

Give us a tip?

To echo the sound advice of the late Elisabeth Maconchy (composer and mother of Nicola Le Fanu), I think women must just get on with what they have to offer; it’s more productive than waving banners or protesting.

Links: Penzance Orchestral Society

About Judith Judith Bailey was born in Camborne. She trained at the Royal Academy of Music where she studied clarinet, piano, composition and conducting. Her freelance career in music has been largely centred in Hampshire, where for 30 years she directed the Petersfield and Southampton Concert Orchestras. During this period she had a large number of compositions for orchestra and instrumental ensemble published, often coming to Cornwall to do her writing at the house near Hayle, to which she moved permanently in 2001. She conducts the Penzance Orchestral Society, a vibrant orchestra in Penzance which performs regularly with soloists from all over the UK