Marin Alsop was confirmed as the 12th music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra yesterday morning, despite widespread opposition from the orchestra's musicians. The decision will make her the first female conductor in history to assume the artistic leadership of a full-time, full-size, world-quality orchestra.

Philip D. English, chairman of the BSO board, said that Alsop's "artistic mastery, recording success and highly regarded reputation worldwide will shape an exciting future for the BSO."

In a statement read by English, the BSO said "an overwhelming majority" of the board voted in favor of Alsop, a 48-year-old New Yorker. Such votes are usually a formality after the search committee hands in its recommendation. At the conclusion of a seven-month search, Alsop received that recommendation last Wednesday.

But in an extraordinary challenge, the seven musicians who served on the search committee released a statement over the weekend asking the board to extend and broaden its search. According to the statement, "approximately 90 percent of the orchestra musicians [believed] that ending the search process now, before we are sure the best candidate has been found, would be a disservice to the patrons of the BSO and all music lovers in Maryland."

Alsop will replace Music Director Yuri Temirkanov, who has announced that he will step down at the end of the 2005-06 season. No details of Alsop's contract were available yesterday. A full news conference will be held this afternoon at Meyerhoff Hall in downtown Baltimore, the orchestra's principal venue. Alsop is expected to attend.

In addition to playing at Meyerhoff, the BSO now performs once a week during the concert season at the recently opened Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda.

Yesterday's board meeting began at 8:30 a.m. at Meyerhoff, before the midsummer heat and humidity had settled in. "It's a beautiful morning and beautiful things are going to happen today," Jeffrey F. Liss, an officer of the board of directors, said as he entered the building.

Between 35 and 40 board members came to cast their votes (the exact results will be kept confidential). Board members were greeted at the door with copies of a statement from "the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra" asking once more for a continuance of the search process. "No decision is more important to the future of a symphony orchestra than the choice of a music director," it read.

While the meeting took place on one floor of Meyerhoff Hall, the musicians were rehearsing with guest conductor Hugh Wolff for an upcoming concert. At the end of the rehearsal, James Glicker, the orchestra president, and Decatur H. Miller, a life member of the board and a member of the search committee, took the stage and delivered the news to the orchestra.

The announcement was greeted with "general silence," according to Ellen Orner, a violinist in the BSO who says she's an Alsop supporter. "It was seriously taken." Musicians then filed out of the building, some of them smiling, some of them wistful, a few of them apparently fighting back tears. "We've been told not to talk," one woman whispered as she pushed through a group of reporters and photographers out into the steamy afternoon heat.

Shortly thereafter, Jane Marvine, an English horn player and chairman of the players committee that had issued the request to continue the search, read a brief statement.

"The musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are disappointed in the premature conclusion of the Music Director search process," it said. "However this will not dampen our enthusiasm and zest for music making. We will work together with Marin Alsop and every conductor to present the inspiring performances our audience has come to expect."

She took no questions, nor did English.

Alsop has won her orchestra -- but at a price. Not since Lorin Maazel was appointed music director of the Cleveland Orchestra in the early 1970s with only 2 percent of the ensemble naming him as first choice has any conductor faced such general opposition from the players.

The complaints about Alsop from the musicians are specific and detailed and are not about her sex. Her detractors say that her interpretations of the standard classical repertory are flat and uninteresting and that she lacks the technical skills to fix problems when they arise in rehearsal.

Sylvia Alimena, a conductor and horn player with the National Symphony Orchestra, defended Alsop. "Marin is one of the most hardworking and talented people out there, man or woman. She is always thoroughly prepared when she stands in front of an orchestra and has many, if not most, of her scores memorized."

Alsop is nothing if not resilient -- and determined. She set out to become a conductor more than 20 years ago. At one point, she used to invite musician friends over to her New York apartment and feed them pizza if they would let her conduct them after dinner. Now, she will oversee one of the better orchestras in the country, with almost 100 musicians, an operating budget of $30 million and a $75 million endowment.

"I had a lot of support, right from the beginning," she once said. "I remember when one of my teachers told me girls couldn't conduct. Do you know what my dad did? He went out and bought me a box of batons!"

After studies at Juilliard and Yale, she formed her first ensemble, the elaborately named Concordia -- A Chamber Symphony With a Touch of Jazz -- in 1984. Past music directorships have included the Colorado Symphony, the Eugene (Ore.) Symphony and the Long Island Philharmonic. She is the music director of the Bournemouth Symphony in England, and she has appeared as a guest conductor with leading orchestras throughout the world. As good as she is -- and Alsop at her best is very good indeed, especially in American music -- she has acknowledged that she wouldn't have had a chance at a position such as this until very recently.

"There are times when women who are somewhat older than I am come up and tell me they wish they'd had the opportunities to do what I'm doing now," she said in 1993. "But the nice thing is that it's not at all bitter; it's not, 'Oh, how I regret living when I did,' but more like, 'I'm so happy this is happening for you now.' It's very warm, very supportive.

"Those are the great times," she said. "Those are the times when you feel like you've just crossed the finish line on behalf of everyone."

Marin Alsop's appointment was opposed by many in the orchestra.

Marin Alsop conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra during a guest appearance last year.