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


Elizabeth Jacquet was born into a Parisian family of musicians. She was educated in the court of Louis the 14th, and after her marriage to organist Marin de La Guerre, she taught, composed and gave concerts to great acclaim. Elizabeth Jacquet de La Guerre wrote in a wide variety of styles including opera, ballet, chamber music and cantatas, and was one of the few well-known female composers of the Baroque era.

Although European Classical Music was dominated by men in the mid-18th century, Maddalena Lombardini wanted to be a professional violinist. She studied with Giuseppe Tartini, and married violinist Ludovico Sirmen. Their marriage was short-lived, but Maddalena maintained control of her own finances throughout her career. She retired a wealthy woman, and returned to Venice as one of very few women who made a living in music.

Chinese-American composer Wang Jie was born in Shanghai shortly after the Culture Revolution, and came to the United States to study at the Manhattan School of Music. Jie’s music incorporates Chinese and Western classical styles, and often revolves around social issues such as nature, the environment, disability, war, love and loss.

Evelyn Glennie - deaf percussionist creates new ears

Feb 22, 2019

Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie lost her hearing at age 8, and taught herself to hear with other parts of her body, including her hands and feet. She performs internationally as a solo percussionist, including the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. In 2007 she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire, and a Companion of Honour to the Queen in 2016.

In her teens and early 20s, New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa was a pop star and entertainer. After winning the Lexus Song Quest, she received a grant to study in London. Performances at London’s Royal Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera drew international recognition, and in 1981 she sang at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer to a worldwide television audience of more than 600 million.

French pianist Hélène Grimaud describes herself as a contrary child who was a trial to her teachers. She began piano at age nine, and at 16 she was awarded the Paris Conservatory’s First Prize Diploma. She experiences synesthesia, seeing music as color – D minor is blue, E-flat major is green.

American composer Gabriela Lena Frank's music is influenced by her Peruvian heritage, and often includes Latin American instruments such as pan flute and charango guitar. She was the subject of the PBS documentary Peregrinos, about her symphony that was inspired by the stories of undocumented Latino immigrants.

American composer Missy Mazzoli has received critical acclaim for her music. She has been composer-in-residence at the Philadelphia Opera Company and the Albany Symphony, and is the founder and keyboardist for the electro-acoustic band Victoire.

American composer Libby Larsen’s early musical training included Gregorian Chant, Dixieland music and boogie-woogie. In 1973, Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, and 10 years later was appointed a composer-in-residence by the Minnesota Orchestra – the first woman to serve as a resident composer with a major orchestra.

Mexican-American conductor Alondra de la Parra became interested in conducting at age 13. She studied at the Manhattan School of Music, and founded her own ensemble, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas.