After 18 years playing the clarinet, last night I played a piece composed by a woman. It took from the young age of 8 all the way until 26 for me to sit in my seat in the clarinet section, look over the new music on my stand, and realize, huh, is this piece written….by a woman?!
I am in shock for two reasons.
Number one: Conservatively, I’ve come across and eventually performed about 200 pieces of music in my lifetime. And that doesn’t even account for music featured in marching band and pep rallys. Nor does it included pieces that I played in rehearsal but didn’t make the final concert. 200+ pieces. All composed by men.
Number two: I realize now how completely unaware I am of my gender. Why didn’t I ask, “where are all the women?”
I’ll be honest. The lack of women composers in my rehearsals and concerts was not something I was aware of. My band directors over the years (6 men and 3 women) presented new music to us matter-of-factly and without discussion. Not that us band members felt the need to be included in the deliberation of choosing next semester’s music. Nor did we feel excluded or like we didn’t have a voice in our band. However, the director is the captain of the musical ship and what they say goes without question. When they present new music to us, peripheral details like title, composer, and arranger fall to the wayside as us musicians scramble to analyze the meter changes and pray that there aren’t too many flats or sharps. To be fair to all of the pieces I’ve played by men (which again, are the overwhelming majority), they have been diverse, technically challenging, and beautiful. It was only until recently that I noticed the severe lack of ladies in music.
So, after countless hours playing my clarinet and performing a boat load of music, it took me until last year for the light to shine in and it dawned on me: why are there not more women composers? I came to this line of questioning after reading Emily’s satirical and hilarious blog post titled, “In Which I Learn Why There Are No Great Women Composers“. That title is click bait journalism at its finest and I love her for it. But for all its tongue in cheek humor she does bring up a good point, why are women underrepresented in music? That is a question I have been thinking about and one that I ask you to ponder. The answer is layered and goes far back into history and women’s roles in society across the centuries. But that discussion is for another blog post.
Today, I pledge to listen to more women composers and promote them. I pledge to thank my band director for picking a piece composed by a woman.
Oh, and of course the piece we’re playing in band this semester is appropriately titled, “Blaze the Trail” and it’s by Lisa Galvin. If you’d like to read more of Emily’s musical musings she can be found HERE!
I've performed in so many concerts I can't keep count! This photo is from my latest concert this past Monday with the Phoenix Community College band. One of my favorite things about band is the community. After every concert we go across the street and get burgers and beer with lots of laughter and sharing. This week I met a trumpet player who moved to Phoenix as a young lawyer back in the 60s with the V.I.S.T.A. program. He worked with migrant farmers and through this he became a part of Cesar Chavez's legal team. I'm not sure why but band always attract the most interesting and diverse group of people. 🎶🎼🎵#clarinet #band #Phoenix | 📷: @ajgarnica