Marin Alsop makes history at the Last Night of the Proms

Conductor calls for music to be 'front and centre' in education

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The American conductor Marin Alsop (right) made history at the BBC Proms on Saturday when she became the first female conductor to preside over the Last Night of the Proms.

The evening's programme showcased composers whose anniversaries the festival had celebrated this year – Verdi, Wagner and Britten featured, as well as music by the less well known Cornish composer George Lloyd, marking the centenary of his birth.

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and violinist Nigel Kennedy were this year's star soloists performing works by Bernstein, Handel and Vaughan Williams.

In the traditional conductor's speech, Alsop referred to the 'honour' of being the first woman to conduct the high-profile concert, but also expressed her surprise that there could still be 'firsts for women in 2013.'

She referred only glancingly to last week's controversy over remarks made by conductor Vasily Petrenko about women conductors when she said: 'when I was nine and even last week when people were saying girls couldn't conduct, my parents supported me.'

Alsop went on to stress the importance of music education, saying: 'Thanks to the transformative power of music I've witnessed hundreds of kids […] in Sao Paolo and in west Baltimore […] access this new world of possibility and see different futures for themselves. The power of music cannot be underestimated.'

The Last Night of the Proms was broadcast on BBC television and Radio 3, and can be watched on iPlayer for the next few days.

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