Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Monday Link Round Up: July 16, 2018

by sarah - July 16th, 2018

News and music to start your week!

The 2018 BBC Proms are off and running (ICYMI here are the statistics of women’s representation we put together).  Anna Meredith had a piece presented at First Night at the Proms and spoke to Fiona Maddocks about her work.  Read more at The Guardian.

In response to the #MeToo movement, professional music organizations in the UK are working to create a code of conduct to eradicate sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination.  A joint initiative between the Musicians Union and Incorporated Society of Musicians, you can read more at The Stage.

NBC Nightly News took on the topic of diversity in American Orchestras.  How great to have national attention on this pervasive problem!  Check out the NBC website for the article, and video clip, including interviews with many musicians.

National Sawdust (the innovative music venue in Brooklyn) explores the ways in which Twitter emboldens all trolls – in particular in attacks against women composers, performers, and scholars. The catalyst for the article was a confrontation by Shelley Washington and Gemma Peacocke with a troll who disparaged the role of women composers. John Hong speaks with both Washington and Peacocke.

composer Missy Mazzoli

On July 2 we shared the exciting news that Missy Mazzoli was named Composer In Residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A few days later, Mazzoli spoke to WRTI about the importance of mentoring young women composers.  Read the conversation here.

The Dream Unfinished, the amazing activist orchestra, is building up to the finale of their SANCTUARY season.  The July 27 concert  features music by Tania Leon, George Walker, Vijay Iyer, Kareem Roustom and Huang Ruo. Speakers from NYC’s immigrant rights community will share their stories.



BBC Proms 2018: By the Numbers

by sarah - July 12th, 2018

The 2018 BBC Proms kicks off today, Friday, July 13 and continues with extensive programming through September. The annual event features what is considered the best of the best in contemporary classical music programming with ensembles, soloists, and conductors from around the world. The schedule of events is enormous, with paid and free concerts, lectures, workshops, radio broadcasts – not a dull moment until after Labor Day.

Others have already shared their thoughts on the choices in programming for this year’s Proms, but we felt it important to add our thoughts, and figures, to the conversation as the Proms officially get underway.

There are a lot of ways that we can account for how works by women are represented at the Proms – and we can start with clear figures.  For example:

  •  Of the 127 composers represented this year (in all of the programming, both numbered Proms and “Proms at…” concerts, symphonic and chamber music) only 22 are women. (17% representation) Of those 18 women, only four are historic (Lili Boulanger, Hildegard von Bingen, Morfydd Llwyn Owen, and Dame Ethel Smyth.)
  • Of the roughly 103 hours of music (that’s 4 ¼ days straight), women’s work only accounts for 4 hours. (4% of the overall time)
  • Of the 296 individual works being performed (again, at both symphonic and chamber music events), there were 28 individual works by women. Only two had more than one work being performed (Lili Boulanger, who has an impressive six pieces throughout the schedule, and Caroline Shaw who has two). (9% of the total works)

    This Proms 2018 graphic features men and women in equal proportion — unfortunately very misleading

All told, this is tremendous progress over the figures from last year! Which, sadly, only continues to highlight just how underrepresented women are in so much classical music programming.  But this year the BBC Proms proclaims they are championing women in their discussion of “What’s new and extraordinary”!

The Proms, and the UK music scene in general, has been making great effort in working towards more equality in the representation of women in classical music – and we can, I’m sure, look forward to more good things to come. There are notable celebratory moments throughout this season in the work towards inclusivity and representation. For example, works by women are featured in both the “First Night of the Proms” and the “Last Night of the Proms.” Many of the women composers who are having works heard were commissioned by the BBC, and we are always delighted in organizations making an effort to be inclusive in supporting new music. In fact, of the 24 works by women being heard, five are World Premieres of a BBC Commission. (There are also two world premieres and two UK premieres being heard as well.)

For such a British affair it’s remarkable how much Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday is being celebrated, with music being featured in a total of nine events, including a full performance of West Side Story.  Scottish composer Thea Musgrave, who marked her 90th birthday just a few months ago – and was honored by the Queen herself – is also included in this year’s events. But with just a single work being performed, (Phoenix Rising in Prom 33, paired with Brahms in a concert titled “Brahms’s A German Requiem”) it’s hardly a comparison. It can also be noted that zero works by Judith Weir, Master of the Queen’s Music, are on this year’s program.

Prom 8 is the only event to include works by multiple historic women composers. Titled Youthful Beginnings, the program includes two works by Boulanger, Felix Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto, Nocturne by Morfydd Llwyn Owen, and Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4. An innovative program to be sure – but the interest of the event is lost in the description:

Mendelssohn’s precocious First Piano Concerto joins Schumann’s forward-looking Fourth Symphony and music by Lili Boulanger and Morfydd Owen – both of whom died tragically young – in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s first Prom of the season.

So Mendelssohn is precocious, Schumann is forward-looking, but Boulanger and Owen just died young?  Certainly their music has admirably qualities other than the early death of the composer?  Or would sharing that Lili Boulanger’s “Youthful Beginnings” include being the first woman to win a Prix de Rome in music, and that Morfydd Owen completed over 250 highly regarded compositions in just 10 years –is that too much to share?

Prom 13 highlights contemporary women, titled Pioneers of Sound, and works by five works by electronic composers.  Certainly an innovative programming choice for Royal Albert Hall!  In addition to historic composers, the performance will also include a newly revised work by Daphne Oram (1925-2003) who was on the forefront of electronic composition.  For all of the losses in this year’s programming, there are also wins.

All of which is to say, it’s frustrating, but not surprising. Disappointing, but still better than what has happened in the years before. (See our look at the 2016 Proms, 2015 Proms, and 2014 Proms reports.) Progress is painfully slow, but it is happening. And, it can be noted, all of these figures far exceed the representation that women receive in any top American orchestra season (although the number of Proms concerts exceeds that of orchestras and features a wide range of ensembles, large and small, and also soloists).

Have a listen to some of the compositions and composers being heard this year:

Monday Link Round Up: July 9, 2018

by sarah - July 9th, 2018

News and music to start your week!

The mission of Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy focuses on leveling the playing field for women composers.  The inequities are obvious in our oft-quoted statistics that show the prolific accomplishments of women composers who still do not receive the attention that is due to them.

Issues surrounding women performers are really not so much in our radar.  It was one of the big issues back in 1981, when our “mother” organization, The Women’s Philharmonic was founded.  By the time the orchestra disbanded in 2004, huge progress had been made for performers.  Women were represented in every instrument and at every level of orchestra.  Really, we liked to think that problem has been solved.

But this week a story broke that reminded us that female performers still face discrimination.  It was national headlines when principal flutist of the Boston Symphony, Elizabeth Rowe, sued the orchestra for pay discrimination.  Encouraged by a new equal pay law in Massachusetts, Rowe is seeking to bridge the substantial gap in wages between her base pay and that of her closest peer, the (male) principal oboist.  Read the story at NPR and The New York Times.

One of the shocking things: this is the First Flute position that in 1952 was earned by Doriot Anthony Dywer, perhaps the most celebrated women in music to break the glass ceiling, becoming one of the first female principal players in a top-tier orchestra.  The story of her audition is engaging and startling — it took two days, and she was pitted in competition with another applicant.  Finally she impressed the auditioners with her brilliant musicianship and accomplishment — she simply had all (ALL) the flute repertoire for orchestra memorized, and could play any excerpt that they requested on demand!

Elizabeth Rowe, Boston Symphony Orchestra

When finally offered the position, Dwyer had to ask that her salary be specified — the response was: “Oh, it will pay very well.” To which she responded, “Well, I don’t know what very well is. What is ‘very well?’”   “Well, how much do you want?”  Dwyer had researched salary levels, and named her price and could tell that the administrator was shocked. But she stood her ground. Dwyer “leaned in” and asked for equal treatment — now, after years of struggling for fair treatment, Rowe has put her foot down, and done the same.  It’s deja vu all over again — apparently women have to keep re-inventing the wheel, and constantly working for equitable treatment.  Special thanks to the doctoral dissertation of Kristen Kean, pp. 50-63.


Jay Derderian at I Care If You Listen spoke to Rod Deemer – founder of the Composer Diversity Database.  This expansive new resource allows users to search for and learn about composers and music that are not typically included in concert programming.  Learn more about where the idea came from, and where it’s going.


Christina Rusnak, President of the International Alliance for Women in Music, writes in New Music Box about the organization and women’s representation in music generally.  Rusnak specifically looks at the number of women who have won composing awards.  Read on here.

The San Francisco Classical Voice speaks with Gabriela Lena Frank about her Creative Academy of Music, numerous commissioned works, including an opera on the life of Frieda Kahlo that will be premiered in 2019-2020 by the Fort Worth Opera, and her optimism for the future.

AND — every summer the National Women’s Music Festival continues to include new and old  orchestral works in their rich and varied line-up — this year a new orchestral arrangement by Mary Watkins of Cris Williamson’s wonderful song, Sweet Woman, led by Nan Washburn. Truly a celebration!

Monday Link Round Up: July 2, 2018

by sarah - July 2nd, 2018

News and music to start your week!

Congratulations to  Missy Mazzoli who was named as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new Composer in Residence! We look forward to how her influence, and music, impact the CSO programming in the coming seasons!  A new commission for the CSO will premiere in the 2019-2020 season.  Three cheers for this exciting honor!

The New York Times spoke to Camryn Cowan and Jordan Millers – two 11-year-old girls who had their work premiered by the New York Philharmonic.  The girls were part of the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers initiative, and received a great review by Anthony Tommasini.  Read the article to get a chance to listen to both pieces!


The 1994 recording of Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers has been re-released — and a newly staged version will be offered this fall by Arcadian Opera in Buckinghamshire, UK.  Both of these performances tie in to a fascinating discussion about Smyth and the score of The Wreckers.  You can listen on BBC Radio 4: Tales from the Stave! (not sure how long the program will be available). Smyth is something of a legendary figure, and the program raises the issue that her vivid personality was rather easily caricatured.  The focus needs to be more on her music, and yet the lack of performing materials makes this a challenge.  The Wreckers is the best-known of her six operas, yet there is no definitive edition of the work.  Conductor Odaline de la Martinez discusses the score with musicologist Sophie Fuller, and tenor/conductor Justin Lavender.



Monday Link Round Up: June 25, 2018

by sarah - June 25th, 2018

News and music to start your week!

We were very excited to hear a story on NPR’s All Things Considered about the lack of women’s music heard at the symphony.  The piece explores the current statistics in conversation with Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winning composer Jennifer Higdon.  Listen below – and read WPA President Liane Curtis’s reaction to the story here.

The website I Care if You Listen has a conversation with composer Ellen Reid – specifically about her work as a co-founder of the Luna Composition Lab, which offers mentorship by and for female and nonbinary composers.

Emily Hogstad of Song of the Lark writes about forgotten composer Adela Maddison.   Maddison’s 1910 opera “Der Talisman” was performed in Leipzig to enthusiastic reviews.  Hogstad links to the recent recording of her Piano Quintet.  A fascinating read about the complex histories of women in music, and the intricate research processes necessary so that their stories can be remembered.

The Women Composers Festival of Hartford has announced their 2019 Featured Artists!  The Ensemble-in-Residence is The Nouveau Classical Project, and all-women contemporary classical music ensemble based in New York.  The Composer-in-Residence is Jennifer Jolley!

Last week NPR reported on the Barbershop Harmony Society changing their 80 year old policy to allow women to join.  Founded in 1938 the originally all-white organization opened to people of color in 1963, but it took until 2018 to also extend admittance to women.