Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Celebrating Florence Price

by sarah - January 27, 2015

The work to level the playing field for women composers means more than encouraging the inclusion of compositions by women on concert programs.  Advocating for women means helping to ensure that the wider public becomes familiar even with hearing their names.  Just about anyone can name Bach, Beethoven, or at least one of the other boys – but what average person (or even musician) knows the name of even one woman composer?

That’s why I am so happy to share the efforts of Beth Denisch, WPA Board Member, to help make Florence Price a household (or dorm-hold?) name.  The Berklee College of Music in Boston has completed a new building and offering naming opportunities for the dorm rooms.  Donors are invited to name each room after musical artists or bands of the donor’s choosing.  Kudos to their development office for such an out-of-the box fundraiser!

Denisch, who teaches composition at Berklee, has named one of the rooms after Florence Price.  What a fantastic way to introduce students, and future professional musicians, to the works of an important American composer!  After a bit of research, and a conversation with Price biographer Rae Linda Brown, it appears that the only other named space for Price is the Florence B. Price Elementary School in Chicago.  Here’s a short radio piece about Price and her work:

But there are plenty more naming opportunities available – visit the Berklee website to find out more and see the full list of honorees thus far.  And visit the WPA Shop to purchase The Women’s Philharmonic’s recording of Price’s Symphony No. 3.


Fresno Philharmonic Performs Gabriela Lena Frank

by sarah - January 22, 2015

As we mentioned earlier, there was an enthusiastic response to the 2014 Performance Grants in support of hearing more works by women composers.  The first concert is already right around the corner!

The Fresno Philharmonic  will feature Gabriela Lena Frank’s Three Latin American Dances on Sunday, January 25.  Frank’s work shares the program with Ravel’s Bolero, Piazzolla’s Tangazo, and Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez – an exciting an invigorating concert, to be sure.  Congratulations to the Fresno Philharmonic for excellent and innovative programming!  

logo Lena Frank

Visit the Fresno Phil’s website to read some excellent program notes about the piece (complete with audio clips! If you have problems hearing them, make sure your browser accepts plug-ins), or purchase tickets to the event.



Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute

by sarah - January 20, 2015

As more orchestras are learning, the key to robust and engaged audiences is not just innovative programming but also the support of new music and young composers.  The Minnesota Orchestra has led the way in their efforts with their annual Composer Institute, which had it’s 12 iteration this year.

The institute provides an opportunity for young composers to not only have their works workshopped, rehearsed, and performed, but also allows engagement about the current business of music, including copyright, publishing, promotion, et al. It was founded in 2002 by Minnesota Orchestra in collaboration with Aaron Jay Kernis.  More about the Composer Institute can be found here.

The winners this year included Kati Agócs and Loren Loiacono.

Kati Agocs

Kati Agocs

Loren Loiacono

Loren Loiacono













Read more about this year’s winners and the Composer’s Institute at the Star Tribune.

Past winners have included Stacy Garrop & Lisa Bielawa (2001-2002), Orianna Webb (2002-2003), Fang Man (2004-2005), Anna Clyne, Ashley Nail, & Missy Mazzoli (2006-2007), Xi Wang (2007-2008), Wang Lu & Ming-Hsiu Yen (2008-2009), Kathryn Salfelder & Angel Lam (2009-2010), Polina Nazaykinskaya & Wang Jie (2010-2011), and Hannah Lash & Andreia Pinto-Correia (2011-2012).

The Importance of Innovative Programming

by sarah - January 15, 2015

There should be no surprise that we at Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy are enthusiastic about supporting innovative ideas for concerts.  But though we are among the relatively few voices that acknowledge the absence of works by women and advocate for their inclusion on concert programs, we are in good company with many who would like to see more than the standard repertoire on season lineups.  Though I don’t believe that classical music is dying or dead, I do feel that it could use a bit of perking up.  With so many ensembles going through their own financial woes, lacking ticket sales and interested donors, the time has come to reevaluate which works are heard, and how they are presented.

That is why the Spring For Music festival was so commendable.  The core of the festival was to allow orchestras to experiment and explore. The artistic philosophy was, in comparison to the Beethoven that we expect to see on every season brochure, a thrill to read:

Spring For Music provides an idealized laboratory, free of the normal marketing and financial constraints, for an orchestra to be truly creative with programs that are interesting, provocative and stimulating, and that reflect its beliefs, its standards, and vision. Spring For Music believes that an orchestra’s fundamental obligation is to lead and not follow taste. As such, programming needs to advance, and not just satisfy, expectations. An artistic point of view must infuse everything an orchestra does, with programs that not only reflect but validate that point of view. Great programs have imaginative, meaningful and deliberate thought behind the selection of pieces, the sequence of pieces, the program structure, and the presentation of pieces. This does not mandate a rigid program “theme” or simply a healthy dose of contemporary music; rather it reflects a stimulating mix of pieces, styles, artists and composers that engages the listener in an absorbing adventure – a journey that seduces, thrills, and moves, and where the program’s totality becomes greater than the sum of the individual pieces. A great program provokes gasps, sighs, tears or smiles, but above all creates a sense of the unexpected – the listener is never sure how it will actually turn out; it is imbued with an inherent risk of uncertainty.

As a result, the risks that were taken in the concerts that were presented included adventurous works and rarely heard performers – including a surprising percentage of women.  In 2011 the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra presented a new commission from Maria Schneider (Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories for Soprano and Chamber Orchestra); the Albany Symphony performed Bun-Ching Lam’s “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” and Tania Leon’s “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”; and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra performed Melinda Wagner’s Little Moonhead.  In 2013 the Baltimore Symphony performed Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto 4-3.  In 2014 the Rochester Philharmonic was originally invited to perform a concert which included Amy Beach’s Gaelic Symphony and other to-be-announced works by women, but the program changed when the conductor was unexpectedly removed and replaced.  Spring For Music allowed conductors to take risks without worrying about how many tickets were sold or what the immediate donor base would consider.  And the concerts themselves were designed to be very accessible with flat, affordable ticket prices.

The idea was inspired and deeply relevant to the need to change the current tides of classical music.  Which makes it all the more unfortunate that Spring For Music was, ultimately, unsustainable.  The intentions were excellent, and the concerts it produced in its four year run were superb – but there was lack of funding to continue the experiment any longer.  As Alex Ross noted on his blog, “This series will be missed and mourned.”

All the more reason why I was thrilled to learn that the Kennedy Center and Washington Performing Arts will collaborate to bring back a reimagining of Spring For Music in SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras.  Read the full press release here.



There are key differences between the former and future iterations (participating orchestras will be chosen not just for artistry but for their demonstrated relationship with their communities; an overall stronger emphasis on education, including community events, workshops, etc.) but the core is the same – acknowledging, applauding, and encouraging more innovative programming.

The website for applications will be open as of next week, and we can anticipate the first iteration of the festival in 2017.  I look forward not only to what programs and events/opportunities for engagement will be offered, but how this momentum from Spring For Music and now SHIFT can continue to encourage and inspire conductors and arts administrators that it is worth taking risks and offering audiences something new, exciting, and engaging instead of the repertoire we all may love, but have heard perhaps far too often.


Congratulations to the 2014 Performance Grant Winners!

by sarah - January 13, 2015

We were so happy to be able to once again offer Performance Grants to support the works of women composers being performed more widely – and the judges were rather impressed, not only with the number of responses, but the quality of the proposed programs.  There are many exciting concerts to look forward to!

The winners are:

Allentown Symphony Orchestra
American Composers Orchestra
Atlantic Youth Orchestra
Bar Harbor Festival String Orchestra
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Cappella Clausura
Chattanooga Symphony & Opera
Chicago Composers’ Consortium with the Chicago Composers Orchestra
Community Women’s Orchestra
Curtis Institute of Music
Flagstaff Symphony
Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra
Four Seasons Orchestra
Fresno Philharmonic
Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra
Greater Boulder Youth Orchestra
Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra
Lancaster Symphony Orchestra
Lansing Symphony Orchestra
Macon Symphony Youth Orchestra
Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra
Musical Arts Youth Orchestra
Nashville Symphony
Orchestra of St. Luke’s 
Orchestra of the League of Composers
Pacific Symphony
Salem Chamber Orchestra
Saratoga (Chamber) Orchestra of Whidbey Island
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra
Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra
Virginia Symphony Orchestra
Williamsburg Symphonia

Be sure to like WPA on Facebook and subscribe to our monthly emailed newsletter for more announcements about the upcoming concerts and work by women that the Performance Grants are supporting

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