One composer’s thoughts on classical music and women composers

Posted on: May 23, 2017

“When I was first starting out as a composer, a composition teacher offered me some bracing words of caution,” writes Sarah Kirkland Snider in an essay on Wednesday (5/17) at New Music Box. “ ‘Sarah, you’ll have a difficult path. Your music is direct, lyrical, expressive. When a man writes like that, it’s brave and admirable; it’s going against type. But when a woman writes like that, it can be seen as sentimental and indulgent. Stay strong; don’t let it deter you.’ At the time, I didn’t believe him…. This year’s wonderfully surprising Pulitzer Prize for Music coup notwithstanding (in which not only the winner but the two finalists were female), recent statistics confirm that gender bias continues to plague concert programming, conducting/performance, and academia…. I receive a discouraging number of emails from young female composers thanking me for my ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ in writing music that is emotionally direct.… To young female composers: Do not be cowed by any shaming of the ‘emotional’ or the ‘feminine’ in your work.… Tell your stories—loud, proud, bold, vulnerable, with the full gamut of your humanity.” The article also discusses classroom interactions, mentoring, and language used in reviews of music by women composers.

Posted May 23, 2017