Back to newsletter

DSC 9642 Darker Gwendolyn Masin

The Space Between the Notes - XXI

Zum deutschen Text

"I don't care what you think of me, unless you think I'm awesome. In which case, you are right." – Miss Piggy

Back in 2013, I asked a number of people whether I should continue with the GAIA Music Festival. At the time, even though we had just celebrated our fifth anniversary, nearly every aspect of the festival’s fundraising and organisation was still falling back on me despite the team’s best efforts. Our budget was already quite modest and last-minute cancellations from sponsors were stressing our resources. I found myself working around the clock to try to put out fires. The answer to my question, “Should we continue?” was met with a resounding, “No!”
As we prepare for our 14th edition this coming May, you can probably tell, I’m not easily discouraged.

Book your tickets here.

In a similar vein, before I began writing “Music and Parenthood” which found its way to publication in The Strad on International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022, I had trouble finding anyone willing to expand the conversation with me on this topic. I asked women and men whether they felt there was a point of view worth uncovering, calling for more empathy and support within the classical music industry and beyond in its attitude to parenthood, family, and equal opportunity.

The initial response I received included proud statements by parents stating they had managed quite well, thank you very much, and that I should stop complaining. Others told me that everyone has heard this story a million times, and that, frankly, we need to accept how things are. Cynics reminded me that family, like so many other things in life, is a choice.
From these sentiments I took away that The Silent Generation, subjected to hardship, accepted the conditions in which they grew up and survived. On the other end of the spectrum, Gen Z who have had plenty of choice and little resistance, find themselves overwhelmed by options and unsure of how to deal with their own young families when it comes to juggling parenthood with study and/or work.

With this choir of nay-sayers telling me to just stick to the violin before I had even begun writing, I steeled myself for the negative comments once the article appeared.
However, the core message of the article resonated with readers. Apart from one personal email sent to me which read: “I think to say that our industry is still so dated is because men can’t give birth is really, really sexist.”, other people who read the article began sharing their own stories publicly, posting comments on my social media channels and in other forums.

On a very personal note, Amanda Palmer, whose work I greatly admire, came across the article and posted it to her own community. I thank Una Palliser for drawing attention to it. Amanda Palmer writing about my article feels a bit like being appointed a damehood. She wrote: “This beautifully-written article by violinist Gwendolyn Masin is so brutal in its accuracy. It’s about the classical music world, but the state of affairs is, unfortunately, just as mangled in the world of rock/indie music. And in a million other fields.”
Upon finding out that Amanda had discovered my work, my yoga guide Clare, who is a former actress and usually the most likely person in the room to quote Shakespeare, Toni Morrison or Joyce, responded with a simple and poignant: “Fuck me. This would be the pinnacle of my life.”

My takeaway from the experience? If you think there’s nothing you can do to impact change: think again. I have transcribed some of your comments below. THANK YOU for sharing!


Amanda Palmer Gwendolyn Masin


Carnival of the Animals – Saturday 19 March 2022
The story of two children who are promised a day at the zoo with their father unfolds to one of classical music’s most famous works, "Carnival of the Animals". The story, written for this evening’s performance by Simon Jäggi, will be portrayed by Dominique Jann in Swiss German. Saint-Saëns' ferine bonanza, especially loved by children, will be performed by an ensemble led by Gwendolyn and including some of the youngest members of Berne’s Konsi.

Reserve your seats here.

Gwendolyn’s Bridge Club – Thursday 7 April 2022
We once again welcome you to the nostalgically beautiful rooms of Villa Stucki. Music by Ysaÿe, Brahms and Mendelssohn will be part of the evenings’ programme. Master students of the Zurich University of the Arts will perform with Gwendolyn. Special guests Urs Peter Schneider (composer, improviser, and performer) and Marc Kilchenmann (bassoonist, composer, and publisher) will guide us through what it means to write, compose or create ourselves.

After an aperitif, “Matchbox” will cook up a storm with a vegetarian full-course meal composed of regional, organic products.

At the end of the evening, we will auction off a work of art by the Bernese artist Christoph N. Fuhrer as well as some selected wines from the Frauenkopf winery and a book by Gabriela Proksch Bernabé, illustrated by Claudia Martina Rauber.

Save your seat at the table here.

Comments on "Music and Parenthood"

“I’m with you dear! We need more women everywhere. I’m not saying matriarchal societies are perfect and would be the answer to all our problems. But as you so beautifully wrote: giving birth transforms us. When bringing a new life into this world, the portal between life and death briefly opens and we catch a glimpse of what lies beyond. I don’t believe we can come back from that experience unchanged. And I think something deep within us decides that if we’re to live in this world, we better make our time here count.
By the way, I think women who aren’t biological mothers also give birth: to projects, books, paintings, yoga studios ;-), pieces of music, plants and flowers in their garden… Motherhood is something energetic and universal, impulse to care for others and oneself, which I believe all human beings share. We need more motherhood energy, now more than ever–that’s for sure. I truly hope this is the last outcry of an era, the patriarchy, that is destined to die out.” – Elisa Malinverni, yoginī, dancer, coach, writer

“I’m not a professional musician but what you say resonates beyond art… As it happens I’m feeling what you’re writing about deeply today, the “inner howling wolf of artistic inspiration”, honestly it moved me to tears. Expanding into all the new dimensions of motherhood and holding onto our core self-expression which expands exponentially from the very process of becoming a mother is a paradox in a riddle in a mystery… Your words and courage to show up fully is divine feminine energy in flow. We are birthing a new paradigm of how to be in this world, how to do business, create art, raise our babies, etc.” – Shalom Lambert, psychotherapist

“I struggle to read more than your first three paragraphs without weeping. I will return to it when I rally my emotions—but as a mother of three daughters, young women whose brilliance outshines my own, but who would not have existed without my own willing sacrifice of calling, gifting, expression (fill in your preferred word)—I attune to your experience and delight in your choices, as difficult as the world might make them. I see you. I honor your choice and your struggle. And I look forward to reading more of your words.

I made it through this morning. Excellently written, and without any sense of victim mentality that can drip from so much written on the topic. Because of your approach, and the strength of your assertions, your piece has the type of power that I hope will effect change. Though I am not in the fine arts, I found that admissions officers shut down the conversation of me continuing to pursue my MA when I admitted I was pregnant with my third. No questions; no advice or encouragement; just the end of the conversation. This blew my mind since I had started my graduate work with two toddlers - a much more difficult scenario regarding focus than pregnancy!

Anyway, this is not about my story in particular but about shaping culture as a whole. What might it mean for us to celebrate passing on the gifts, disciplines, excitement for our craft/work (whatever that may be) to the next generation? What might that mean to the world—how might it transform everything to have parents (mothers and fathers who value raising children to be the next leaders) in leadership positions instead of those who view children as burdens, obstacles, merely distractions, nuisances? The world not only misses out on one of the greatest joys known to man but also misses the point entirely. Humans are designed to learn and grow this way: in loving relationship, exploring and affecting the world together—hemmed in by our responsibilities to one another. Inside the limits are where we produce our best work, because that work is not ethereally abstracted from human reality. Our best work is anchored in the achingly beautiful, earthy, relational human experience. Even if that means we have to work harder to focus.

I admire your discipline and applaud you from afar. Thankful for you. – Kelsey Baldwin Reed, educator, writer, speaker

“I've just read the absolutely wonderful piece on your blog about Music and Parenthood. I love the consideration you have given to all artists and how they combine motherhood with their art. I hope many, many people read this and are able to appreciate the sense of your words. "It is high time that classical musicians felt elevated and emboldened to lift the curtain on rigid interpretations of the artist in the 21st century and speak openly about the difficulties and challenges." – Jane Nicholls, mental health professional


Topic Press allg Gwendolyn Masin

I would love to build community, understanding, openmindenness amongst music lovers everywhere. My work is designed to encourage that and your contribution adds continued purpose and dimension to that.

Your support here lends me courage and gives me motivation to go on, to never cease from exploration, to remain the eternal student and to share, share, share. THANK YOU.

> Support my work

GAIA Music Festival

4th – 8th May 2022

NCH International Master Course

2nd – 7th August 2022