Focus on women composers at California’s American Youth Symphony

Posted on: February 9, 2021

American Youth Symphony Concertmaster Gallia Kastner and (from top) composers Joan Tower, Jessie Montgomery, and Jennifer Higdon.

The American Youth Symphony has made a “groundbreaking pledge that 50 percent or more of new music performed by the orchestra will be the work of female composers,” writes Laurie Niles in Friday’s (2/5) Violinist.com. “It all began when conductor Carlos Izcaray started planning a single concert that would feature female composers…. ‘As we were doing the research, it took about two seconds to realize, one concert is not enough,’ [he said]. How about a whole season? So … 2018-2019 became the ‘Year of the Woman’ for the AYS. But even that was not enough…. The orchestra officially pledged that, moving forward, 50 percent or more of new music performed by the orchestra would be by female composers. ‘That is the make-up of our society, and I think that is sustainable,’ he said…. How has this kind of programming affected the members of the youth orchestra? … Playing Jennifer Higdon’s ‘Blue Cathedral’ with AYS in Disney Hall was an unforgettable experience for [concertmaster Gallia] Kastner. And the AYS concerts featuring works Joan Tower and Jessie Montgomery served as an introduction to those composers for Kastner. Since that time, Kastner has further explored the works of those composers on her own.”