Classical 91.5

Women in Classical Music

If you look at the listings of the major orchestras in America you will see two things in common; very few of them are programming major pieces by women composers, and almost none have a woman on the podium. Despite the abundance of wonderful compositions by women, the world of classical music has been, for centuries, a man’s world.

Classical 91.5 is committed to help turn things around by celebrating the achievements of women:  from Hildegarde of Bingen to Jennifer Higdon, performing, conducting, composing and more. You'll hear women highlighted every day, not just during Women's History Month in March, but year round.  It’s time.

There's lots more content online, from blog posts to videos, resources for research, a celebration of Women's Suffrage and even some Classics for Kids audio features and Quizzes on the right side of the screen.  Please explore the site to find out more.

Learn more about:

Marin Alsop, conductor
Amy Beach, composer
Hildegard von Bingen, composer and mystic      
Lili & Nadia Boulanger, musicians & teacher
Francesca Caccini, lutenist and composer
Sarah Caldwell, conductor
Cecile Chaminade, composer
Leonora d'Este, princess, musician & nun
JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Louise Farrenc, pianist & composer
Renee Fleming, soprano

Gabriela Lena Frank, composer

Evelyn Glennie, percussionist

Hélène Grimaud, pianist

Elizabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, composer
Jennifer Higdon, composer
Sharon Isbin, guitarist

Wang Jie, composer

Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano
Saint Kassiani, composer
Jeanne Lamon, conductor

Libby Larsen, composer

Marianna Martines, composer

Missy Mazzoli, composer
Fanny Mendelssohn, composer

Meredith Monk, composer

Eimear Noone, conductor and composer

Jessye Norman, soprano

Alondra de la Parra, conductor
Florence Price, composer
Clara Schumann, pianist & composer

Maddalena Lombardini Sirmen, violinist & composer

Undine Smith Moore, composer
Dame Ethel Smyth, composer
Barbara Strozzi, composer

Marcelle Germaine Taillefesse, composer

The Metropolitan Opera announced today (Sep 23, 2020) that the ongoing health crisis has resulted in the cancellation of the entire 2020–21 season, but the company also announced ambitious artistic plans for its 2021–22 season, which will open with the Met premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Blanchard’s opera is the first by an African American composer to be performed at the Met.

Musical Women of the Suffrage Movement

Feb 28, 2020
Portrait of Dame Ethyl Smyth by John Singer Sargent (1901)

As we prepare to celebrate Women's History Month, our minds are on trailblazing women of the past and present. Last month we celebrated Susan B. Anthony’s 200th birthday and our own Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra presented concerts on the music of suffrage and Susan B. Anthony herself. As I explored this music, I was drawn to suffrage songs and the women who created and inspired them. Many of these composers changed the game for women in music, but they are not often remembered today.

The granddaughter of slaves, Undine Smith Moore’s first musical memories were of the Morningstar Baptist Church in Jarratt, Virginia. She received a scholarship from the Julliard School to study music at Fisk University, and later studied composition at the Manhattan School of Music and the Eastman School. Undine was a co-founder of the Black Music Center at Virginia State College, and today she is known as the “Dean of Black Women Composers.”

Marianna Martines was an 18th century Viennese noblewoman who composed oratorios, masses and sacred choral music. She grew up in the same building as the young composer, Franz Joseph Haydn, and received musical training in voice, harpsichord and composition. Marianna was frequently asked to sing for the Empress Maria Theresa, but she never held an appointed position; which was unacceptable for a woman of her social class at that time.

Marcelle Germaine Taillefesse studied piano with her mother and took lessons at the Paris Conservatory, where she won prizes in accompaniment, harmony, and counterpoint. However, her parents considered music to be an inappropriate career for a woman and – to spite her father – she changed her name to Tailleferre. Germaine became a member of Les Six, the only woman in this influential group of early 20th century French composers.

The BBC News has announced that Irish conductor and composer Eimear Noone will make history this weekend as the first woman to conduct the Oscar ceremony orchestra.  Best known for conducting the scores for video games such as World of Warcraft, Zelda and Diablo, Noone says that conducting cinematic scores and video games is really very similar.

(Julieta Cervantes photo)

In 2015, when Meredith Monk walked into the White House to receive a National Medal of Arts from then President Obama, she says had a plan.

She remembered, “We were all like deer in the headlights, but I was determined I was going to give him a hug.   I’m tiny and he’s very, very tall, so he bent down and I whispered in his ear, ‘Keep on trucking.’  He said, “There’s nothing else we can do.’"

From that point on, Monk said, everybody wanted to hug the President, and the hugs got longer and longer.

WOSU Radio - WOSU Public Media

Acclaimed conductor JoAnn Falletta was named Performance Today's 2019 Classical Woman of the Year. The award, which was given for the first time, honors the women who have made a lasting impact on classical music or those who love music.

Clara Schumann blazed a path for women in music, composing and soloing at a time when it was unheard of for women to have a professional career in that world. Yet, we still hear murmers of discontent: she was mean, she wasn't supportive of her husband Robert, she neglected her kids. This "soft misogyny," as pianist Heather O'Donnell calls it, has tainted the legacy of a great artist. 

Global Dimension

On International Women's Day (March 8th), WQXR, one of the largest classical radio stations in the U.S. presented a challenge to classical stations across the country.  To present a full day of classical music composed, conducted and performed by women and to make a conscious decision to increase the percentage of music being played by women over the next 12 months.