It seems as though my newsfeed has been full of stories related to women and music in recent days. The flurry of activity, almost entirely connected to Women’s History Month – and the BBC Radio 3 devoting so much air time to women composers – has made for great reading over the past few weeks.
Some highlights include:
Naxos put together a list of albums with music written, performed, or conducted by women.
Conductor Barbara Hannigan’s editorial about her experiences as a singer, a conductor, and as a woman in a society, and profession, that is obsessed with age, body image, and defined gender roles:
Conducting is one of those few final frontiers in which there is a dearth of women. For me, though, the issue is much more complicated than a call of “We need more women conductors!” It is musicianship, psychology and technical skill all bound together in a rare type of leadership that is elusive. It is neither male nor female. Convention has kept the field dominated by men. Convention and, of course, some everyday sexism – because before a woman gets on the podium, she needs to get into a conducting class at university, and before that even, she needs to see the career as a viable option, something I didn’t as a child.
A friend’s young daughter saw me conducting on TV the other day, and said: “Mommy, I didn’t know women were allowed to be conductors.”
Jessica Duchen went so far as to propose that there is an end in sight to the sexism in classical music. And while we can all appreciate her optimism, many – including Diana Ambache – recognize that though there is positive signs with the recent attention paid by Radio 3 to these neglected composers, there is much work still to be done.
An easy to digest and substantial overview of women’s work in music done by James Poke. I in particular appreciate the need to not just celebrate the women making music today, but those who are no longer here to advocate for their own work:
While it is very encouraging to see that there are so many promising young women composers producing music today, there is no excuse for ignoring the large body of excellent music written by women in the past, despite the extreme limitations that were placed on them.
And Judith Abbs contributed a great sketch on the life and work of Dame Ethel Smyth after she was not included on Poke’s list.
Sara Mohr-Pietsch, who works for Radio 3, gave her thoughts on the importance of the special programming this year. She articulates problem that I imagine many of us have encountered:
I’m a committed feminist, I have a misogyny detector permanently clamped to my eyes and ears – I’m highly sensitive to gender discrimination because it’s just plain wrong. I also love classical music.
Which is why we are working to correct the balance.
The Radio 3 International Women’s Day Concert and many other programs presented in honor of forgotten or ignored women are available to stream online until April 7 – and available to U.S. audiences! Listen here!
What did I miss? Share the links you’ve been reading in a comment!
And don’t forget to visit our Indiegogo Campaign to support our work in encouraging more orchestras to play works by women!