Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Congratulations to Julia Wolfe

by sarah - September 23rd, 2016

We are thrilled to hear that American composer Julia Wolfe is a 2016 recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant.

© Peter Serling, 2009

© Peter Serling, 2009

She is only the third women composer to be awarded in the history of the prize.  (The first was Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, who won in 1989, and the second was Meredith Monk who on in 1995.)

The MacArthur Fellows program

awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.

Awards have been granted to visual artists, scientists, writers, musicians, playwrights, and social activists.  The New Yorker reports that Wolfe is the first “full-time” composer to have received an award since 2003.  (And only 34 composers – including classical, jazz, folk, and popular music – have ever won.)

The unrestricted funds ($625,000 divided over five years) will give all recipients a chance to pursue new, and large, projects without the funding pitfalls that often befall creative thinkers of all stripes.

In a phone interview with NPR, Wolfe said:

“It’s definitely still sinking in,” Wolfe told NPR in a telephone interview Thursday morning from her home studio in New York. “What does one do with a sudden windfall?”

“It can allow for a little more time to breathe and think,” she says. “It definitely opens up the possibility of dreaming of about things that I might not have dreamt about. It’s a little vague right now, but it’s all good.”

NPR also shared the topic of Wolfe’s next large project:

Her next major project, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, will debut during the orchestra’s 2018-19 season. It is a large-scale piece for orchestra and women’s choir, inspired by the garment industry in New York City in the early 20th century and the women who labored in that business.

(Read the full NPR story here.)

This forthcoming piece has the potential to be incredibly powerful, and incredibly important in documenting and remembering the history that is often neglected.  These are the works, and the stories, that Wolfe excels in telling, as demonstrated by her last major work, Anthracite Fields, which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Music.  (Read the New York Times article about that award here.)

Hear from the composer, herself, about her inspirations, influences, and music:

Be sure to also read the full piece at The New Yorker, which discusses Wolfe’s early career and the relationship with co-founders of Bang on a Can, and how she navigated a male-dominated field and overcame obstacles to achieve her success.  And what tremendous successes – and certainly more to come!

ROCO Performs Mendelssohn and Higdon

by sarah - September 21st, 2016

11540895_10153370456470675_7708821906835645973_nThere are two chances this weekend to hear the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) of Houston, TX present exactly the kind of diverse program that audiences have been calling for.  It was because of this thoughtful, inclusive, and engaging programming that the ROCO was a recipient of a WPA Performance Grant last  year!  (We are currently accepting applications for the Fall 2016 Grant Cycle.)

Guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen will lead the ensemble in performances of Fanny Mendelssohn’s Overture and the Texas Premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Dance Card,  which was co-commissioned by the ensemble.  Take a few minutes to read the conversation with Higdon about her compositional process on the ROCO Blog.  Also on the program are works by Glinka, Kodály, and Shostakovich.

Performances are Friday, September 23 and Saturday September, 24.  For those of us unable to make the trip, ROCO will be streaming the Saturday performance LIVE on their website.  Learn more here.  Be sure to read the program notes online, and have a listen a performance of Fanny Mendelssohn’s Overture by The Women’s Philharmonic as you anticipate this weekend’s concerts.

Monday Link Round Up: September 19, 2016

by sarah - September 19th, 2016

News to start your week!

Rising star conductor Mirga Gražinyté-Tyla is making her NYC debut today conducting the Juilliard Orchestra.  She is leading the ensemble with Berlioz, Beethoven, and Fires from Lithuanian born composer Raminta Šerkšnytė.   Find out more about the work here, and tickets and information about today’s concert is available here.


OperaHub has announced a contest for “newly-composed arias for powerful female characters in virtuosic female voices.”  Any composer is welcome to enter the competition, which has a deadline of May, 2017.  There will be one grand prize (of $1,000) and seven runners up ($200) – and all winners will be performed in the OperaHub Trunk Show.  Find out more information about the guidelines and how to apply here.


Michael Haas, blogger at Forbidden Music, has a great piece just posted discussing the work of female composers.  Titled, “‘Degenerate’, ‘Deviant’ or Deliberately Downgraded”, Haas discusses his experience sitting on a panel discussing the history of women in music, and what obstacles still need to be overcome.  It is a thoughtful piece – and interspersed into the conversation Haas includes great images and links to works by different women composers throughout history.


Don’t forget to have a listen and make a guess at the Into the Light Radio quiz for September!


The deadline for the Fall 2016 WPA Performance Grant cycle is October 14!  More information and the online application are available here.


And, as always, let us know what we missed!  What have you been reading?  Leave a link in a comment below!

Activism through Music

by sarah - September 15th, 2016

We’ve all heard that Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast (William Congreve) but music also has the power to incite action and raise awareness of critical issues in our society.

Earlier this year we discussed The Dream Unfinished’s work, and the concert remembering and honoring the life of Sandra Bland and offering (from their website):

musical tribute to black women impacted by racial injustice, and female activists and organizers of the historic Civil Rights and #BlackLivesMatter movements.

The concert was a powerful and poignant event (read Liane Curtis’s review at The Music Intelligencer).  The spirit of activism through music is powerful – with examples from around the world.

534888_288672984554677_343409204_nOn September 10 composer and conductor Anne Bonnycastle organized an orchestra to perform a concert of works by women composers in support of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia.  The Women’s Centre supports women and children with “basic needs and positive change” – including meals, housing, and other essentials.  The concert program included works by Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, Laura Maddalena Syrmen, Nathelie Sam, Melanie Bonis, Elizabeth Knudson, Doreen Carwithen, Jocelyn Morlock, Elfriede Andree, and Bonnycastle.

This is the second concert organized in support of the Centre.  The program in 2015 also included works by Cecile Chaminade, Amy Beach, Alice Mary Smith, Maria Therese Von Paradis, Jean Coulthard, and Ethel Smyth.  There is something so poignant about performing works by historic women composers in support of the life changing services that the Women’s Centre provides to the women of Vancouver.

Though the concert has passed, donations are always being accepted at the Centre through their website.  (You can also stay in touch through their Facebook Page.)  And learn more about the Women’s Orchestra here.

As readers of the blog know, we have spent the last year or so following the work Street Requiem.  The piece which was composed by Kathleen McGuire, Jonathan Welch, and Andy Payne, the cantata is written for mass choir, soloists, and orchestra and honors the lives of people facing homelessness, and who have died living on the streets.

The work has received international acclaim, and will be making its New York City debut on September 24.  The performance at Carnegie Hall will include a massed choir of voices from Australia and the United States, and Frederica Von Stade will be a featured soloist.  The benefit concert will support several organizations that meet the needs of the homeless individuals living in New York City.  Tickets are still available for the upcoming concert!  Stay in touch with the Street Requiem project through the Facebook Page, and listen below to a live recording with the School of Hard Knocks Choirs (Queensland, AU):

The power of music to move, evoke, and inspire is just as important as the power of music to help bring acknowledgement to injustice and a call to action.  It is wonderful to see how music – and women’s voices – are being used to call attention and excite change.

Monday Link Round Up: September 12, 2016

by sarah - September 12th, 2016

News to start your week!

The Library of Congress blog, In the Muse, has a guest post by Kate Doyle, a doctoral candidate specializing in experimental composition and sound for performance art at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.  Doyle focused this past summer sorting and organizing the music commissioned for Erick Hawkins and his modern dance company.  Among these works were several scores by Lucia Dlugoszewski.  Doyle’s exciting work, and Polish American composer Dlugoszewski’s legacy, here.

We shared the news of the death of Connie Crothers earlier this year.  Ursel Schlight at New Music Box has a remembrance of Crothers’ life and pioneering work.  Read on here.

There has been several recent letters in The Guardian about the value and history of women as conductors.  We shared a few last week, and there are more worth noting.  First, on September 6, Susie Self, a composer & conductor, shared her own experiences on both ends of the baton, and the continued changes that are needed.  On September 7 Joan Stoney reminded readers of Iris Lemare, the first woman to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

The Desert Sun has a review of the fourth annual Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival which took place in Palm Springs, CA over labor day weekend.  Read the review here, or learn more about the festival here.

As always, let us know what we missed!  What are you reading?  Leave a link and comment below!

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