Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Joan Tower Performed (and Recorded) by Nashville Symphony

by Liane Curtis - November 23, 2013

Tonight! (Nov. 23)  Not only will WPA Performance Grant recipient Nashville Symphony present two works by Joan Tower—Stroke (2010) and Violin Concerto (1991)—it will also record them for a 2014 release by Naxos, the same label that released Tower’s Grammy-winning  Made in America.  Bravo!!

A Few Words on the RPO

by sarah - February 5, 2013

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has been making headline after headline as of late—and not for the same reasons that it did just a year or so ago. The orchestra that was only months ago presented with the first Amy Award for programming excellence has now fired the Music Director that made the award possible. The situation surrounding the termination of conductor Arild Remmereit is becoming increasingly complicated and frustrating for the RPO musicians and Remmereit’s supporters.

While I am not qualified to speak directly to the circumstances, and the extremely divided viewpoints on the matter, I do have a great concern regarding the future programming of the RPO.

Maestro Remmereit’s programming choices made a significant impact for Rochester and the larger classical music community, even with his extremely abbreviated tenure.  A recent editorial in the Democrat and Chronicle spoke to the difficult situation that now exists in Rochester, and acknowledged among Remmereit’s achievements the inclusion of work by women and minority artists. In fact, his programming choices were so innovative as to warrant an invitation for the RPO to performing during the 2014 Spring For Music festival at Carnegie Hall. The original press release proudly announced that their performance, scheduled for May 7, 2014, would include Amy Beach’s Gaelic Symphony and other works by women composers. It seemed only logical that RPO would perform Beach at Carnegie Hall—the honor of participation came as a result of their adventurous and innovative programming. In other words: because Remmereit dared to feature under-performed works by women composers.

Imagine my surprise when I read in a press release from January that the RPO has changed their repertoire for the Spring For Music festival – instead of presenting the rich concert of works by women, the RPO, under the direction of Michael Christie, will perform Howard Hanson’s opera Merry Mount.

I am confused why the decision would be made to so dramatically change the programming for participation in the Spring For Music festival, particularly when the inclusion of works by women was a significant factor in the invitation to participate at all.

Regardless as to the personal and/or political factors of the recent dismissal, the RPO Board is gravely remiss to not acknowledge the positive developments in programming and engagement that have resulted from Remmereit’s vision. They were happy to acknowledge the ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming (due in part to including works by Karen Tanaka and Margaret Brouwer), as well as the Amy Award from Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy. Why suddenly ignore and dismiss the progress that has been made and the national recognition that has been garnered from diverse programming?


Jennifer Higdon (photo credit Candace di Carlo)

Jennifer Higdon’s piece “Machine” was recently included in an RPO concert.   The program was originally meant to also include a work by Margaret Brouwer, which the management cut for budgetary reasons.  Having two works by women on one program was another example of Remmereit’s visionary decisions.  My colleague Liane Curtis mentioned the situation to Higdon, and Higdon observed:

Maestro Remmereit looks like an incredibly inventive programmer of fascinating concerts. These are the kind of concerts I dream about being able to attend. (email, Jan. 25, 2013)

I second her opinion. It would be a terrible turn of events if the RPO Board, and every orchestra Board, didn’t recognize the value of innovative and diverse programming and build on the past RPO successes. Instead, I fear, they will be advocating for more of the all too familiar, with the result that  those innovative concerts that we’ve been dreaming will go unheard.

Repertoire Statistics Report—2009-2010

by sarah - July 31, 2012

Every year the League of American Orchestras releases statistics on the repertoire that is performed by member ensembles. The information is collected and painstakingly compiled so that arts administrators, musicians, and academics can take notice of trends and changes in the music being heard on American soil.

As with most arts organizations over the past several years, the League has faced some cutbacks and has been a bit behind on their repertoire reports. But the happy news is that the 2009-2010 season reports have recently been made available to the public (available here).

As in the past, (you can see my past reports on these statistics here and here) I went through the report to see exactly where music by women composers was being heard; the numbers, unfortunately, were not terribly surprising. But there was some good news, too.

It should be understood that these figures are not perfect—I was only able to work with the information that was provided, which was somewhat incomplete. For example, no repertoire was reported from Atlanta, Buffalo, Detroit, Houston, National, Rochester, San Francisco, and St. Louis symphonies, among others. But, this data is still valuable and worth consideration.

  • Of the 6,249 performances, there were 45 performances of works by women composers – about  0.7% (*Note: these figures include every reported performance of every work, including repeat performances)
  • Of the 1,671 pieces that were performed, there were 39 pieces composed by women – 2%
  • Of the 490 composers represented, 29 were women – 6%
  • Of the 29 composers, only one was born before 1850 – Francesca Caccini.
  • Out of 137 orchestras, 30 performed works by women – 22%
  • Of those 30 orchestras, 3 were youth orchestras.

For some perspective, there were 457 scheduled performances of works by Beethoven (7% of the total works performed compared to the 0.7% of works by women).

There were 47 performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 alone.
The good news is the number of premieres of works by women during the 2009-2010 season.

US Premieres included:

  • Unsuk Chin’s Concerto, Sheng and Orchestra, Su
  • Augusta Read Thomas’s Helios Choros II

World Premieres included:

  • Margaret Brouwer’s Concerto, Viola
  • Gabrielle Haigh’s Poeme-Rituel
  • Dorothy Hindman’s Urban Myths
  • Rebeca Mauleon’s Suite Afro-Cubano
  • Missy Mazzoli’s These Worlds in Us
  • Amy Scurria’s What the Soul Remembers
  • Wendy Snellen’s Suite de Musica de Guitarra Para Orquesta
  • Stella Sung’s The Frog and the Well (Chamber Version)
  • Gwyneth Walker’s By Walden Pond
  • Diane Wittry’s Lamentoso

There was a tie for the grand-prize of number of works performed by an orchestra—the American Composers Orchestra and New Haven Symphony each performed four pieces. And there were some surprises among the “top” orchestras—Boston Symphony performed Augusta Read Thomas’s Helios II, the New York Philharmonic performed two pieces by Francesca Caccini, and Chicago (which, already has a decent history of including at least a few works by women composers each season) performed two pieces by Ruth Crawford-Seeger as well as a piece by Kajia Saariaho.

As the League continues to work to publish reports from more recent years, I’ll be interested to see what developments will be seen. For example, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has clearly demonstrated their commitment to performing a diverse range of the orchestral repertoire, particularly the under-performed works by women, both historic and contemporary.

Rochester PO Announces 2012-13 Season

by Liane Curtis - March 2, 2012

The Rochester Philharmonic just announced its 2012-13 Season.  In his second season, Maestro Arild Remmereit will continue the orchestra’s exploration of great works by women, both historic and contemporary.

As we mentioned in our earlier post, we are thrilled to see the orchestra making this commitment to women. Remmereit recently served as keynote speaker at the annual fundraising luncheon of the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum. Emphasizing his commitment to women composers, he stated that music “is a necessity and shouldn’t just be in the hands of very few.”  What GREAT NEWS!  Happy Women’s History Month, but also nice to think that women aren’t only for March anymore!


Florence Price on NPR

by sarah - February 28, 2012

I am always delighted to stumble upon the name of a historic woman composer in the daily news—and kudos to NPR for making my day!

Their classical music blog, Deceptive Cadence, highlighted new recordings of works by composer Florence Price —the first African American woman to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra.

Included in the CD are Price’s Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, which was premiered by the Chicago Symphony in 1933, and Concerto in One Movement for piano, featuring Karen Walwyn. The CD also features the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble of Columbia College, Chicago with Leslie B. Dunner conducting.

Stop by the NPR site to hear the fourth movement of the Symphony!

You can also purchase a recording of Price’s Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, plus the tone-poems “Mississippi River Suite” and “The Oak” at the Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy shop.

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