At orchestras, signs of progress for women composers

Posted on: July 30, 2020

The New York Philharmonic gave the world premiere of Stride by Tania León (at center) in February 2020, led by Music Director Jaap Van Zweden. The premiere was part of the orchestra’s multi-season initiative honoring the centenary of the 19th Amendment. Photo by Chris Lee

“Clarice Assad has learned to look to the back of the room for the shy girls, the ones who are afraid to step up to the microphone and lead with their voices,” writes Kendra Nordin Beato in Wednesday’s (7/29) Christian Science Monitor (Boston). “The Brazilian American composer and performer … was commissioned to help a group of girls compose a pop piece based on Sojourner Truth’s speech ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ for [the Albany Symphony’s] American Music Festival ‘Sing Out! New York’ last year…. A recent study by the Institute for Composer Diversity reported that of the 4,066 works scheduled to be performed by 120 American orchestras in the 2019-20 season, only 8% are by women…. But there are signs of progress. The League of American Orchestras has been sponsoring emerging female composers since 2014. For the 2019-20 season, many orchestras planned special programs featuring compositions by women to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment…. Working with girls over the past decade—and the orchestra world’s season focused on women—gives Ms. Assad hope…. ‘But, you know, we don’t want one year to be the vote for us and then nothing. We want that to keep going,’ she says.”

Read Symphony’s article about orchestras commissioning compositions by women to mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.