I had a look at the music website Gramophone for gender stats. This result is the starkest yet. On the Composers page there are 100 composers listed, 0 female composers.
On the composer search tab I searched for a few of the arguably more well known female composers: Hildegard von Bingen, Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Amy Beach and Ethel Smyth. None of them come up.
So 100 composers – 0 women.
I spoke to a flute teacher in her 30’s today who knew the name of just 1 female composer: Cecile Chaminade. I took a deeper look into this to see what is being taught to the young people of today. Here’s what I found in the ABRSM Flute Syllabus.
Grade 1: 3/30 pieces – 10% by female composers.
Grade 2: 2/30 pieces – 6.6% by female composers.
Grade 3: 4/30 pieces – 13.3% by female composers.
Grade 4: 2/30 pieces – 6.6% by female composers.
Grade 5: 4/30 pieces – 13.3% by female composers.
Grade 6: 0/30 pieces – 0% by female composers.
Grade 7: 1/30 pieces – 3.3% by female composers.
Grade 8: 2/30 pieces – 6.6% by female composers.
Total: 18/240 pieces – 7.5% of total pieces by female composers.
This is the message we are sending young people of today.
You can view the syllabus here.
Every year since 1982 King’s College Choir Cambridge have commissioned a new carol to perform. I checked out the gender stats for the available years 1984 to 2016.
32 years, 32 new carols, 5 written by a woman.
5/32 works, that is 15.6% of new carols by women composers.
LPO are one of the resident orchestras at the Southbank Centre.
They are playing 32 concerts in the 2018/2019 season at the Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank.
2 out of 32 concerts feature 1 woman composer each.
2/32 concerts feature a woman composer, that is 6.25%. The proportion of playing time for women composers is smaller still.
The 1st concert is an evening of contemporary work – Helen Grimes is 1 woman amongst 5 composers. 1/5, that’s maybe 20% of the evening.
The 2nd concert is Alice Mary Smith’s Andante for Clarinet which is 7 minutes long. 7 minutes out of a 90 minute concert, that is 7.7% of the concert.
We’re looking at less than 1% of total performance time devoted to women composers.
This coming 2019 season NYO are playing 9 pieces. None of them are by a woman composer.
In 2018 NYO played 13 pieces, 0 by women.
In 2017 NYO played 9 pieces, 0 by women.
In 2016 9 pieces including 1 new commission by a woman composer.
So 4 years, 40 pieces, 1 woman composer.
This is the message we are sending young people of today?!
100 concerts this season, 1 of them features a woman composer and that is only part of the Venus Unwrapped season at Kings Place. So 1/100 featuring a woman composer. 99% of concerts are exclusively male.
English Symphony Orchestra tweeted that they support living composers. I checked out their gender stats to see if they support women composers.
13 concerts this season, 2 of which have 1 woman composer in them, 1 has Kapralova and 1 has Bacewic.
2/13 concerts with 1 woman composer, that is 15.3 % of concerts featuring a woman composer.
Also coincidentally the 2 concerts featuring a woman composer are in the Venus Unwrapped series at Kings Place.