Leading up to the Emerging Women marathon on Sunday (August 24), WQXR has presented some statistics about the current role of women as composers in today’s music. The results are, as we’ve come to expect, unfortunate but not shocking.
Q2 Music has analyzed several key areas in contemporary classical music. In the U.S., women hold only 15% percent of composition faculty positions; women constitute under 15% of living composers whose works were featured on recent orchestral seasons and new-music series; and in the history of prestigious composition prizes, women obtain top honors only 9% of the time. While a handful of established women have risen to garner these elite awards and lucrative commissions, emerging composers still struggle to break through and get their music heard.
But, as the music historian in me is always eager to point out, we must also remember the ranks of women who have come before and whose voices have been long forgotten.
All of the statistics that were compiled for the piece reinforce the importance of the work we’re doing at Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy, as well as the importance of the marathon of works by women that I’m very much looking forward to on Sunday (and which will be repeated on the 28th).
To their credit, WQXR is doing their part to inform and engage listeners, and have done a fair job in not only acknowledging their own lack of representation (the article states that works by women only account for 14% of their current rotating library). In preparation for Sunday’s marathon they reached out to listeners for suggestions—and I am hopeful that we can expect a more robust regular playlist with more women’s voices moving forward. But they sum it up pretty well on their own:
For many years, critics have proclaimed the demise of classical music, and it’s hard to not point to obvious gender, not to mention racial, imbalance as reason for classical music’s continued relevance question.Efforts to prioritize diversity in programming and mentorship however have the counteracting effect of making for a healthier, more vibrant, and living ecosystem for all. So let’s listen and get to work!
Let’s get to work, indeed! And don’t forget to listen in at WQXR.org.