Lend Me a Pick Ax: The Slow Dismantling of the Compositional Gender Divide
By Lisa Hirsch
In the world of classical music, as elsewhere, women have made tremendous progress over the last 30 years. Following the introduction of blind auditions in the 1970s, which greatly reduce bias, women now make up about half of the string and woodwind players in American orchestras. Women occupy prominent administrative positions in major musical institutions. Women direct and design productions at important opera houses.
Women also make up about 30 percent of composition students in American colleges and conservatories. While this is a vast and positive change, it's still not easy for women to get their works performed, especially by symphony orchestras. During the 2004-05 concert season, works by women accounted for only one percent of all pieces performed by the 300 or so member orchestras who responded to the repertory survey of the American Symphony Orchestra League (now the League of American Orchestras, or LAO). The following year, with a boost from Joan Tower's widely-performed Made in America, the number rose to two percent.
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