More On Women Composers And 2018/19 Programming

Back in February of this year, we examined the issue of 2018/19 programming and its inauspicious lack of women composers at several large and mid-size budget orchestras. At that time, Alex Ross’ tweeted a blurb about the lack of women composers and since then, the topic has drawn attention from a wide range or stakeholders.

One of the latest entries is an excellent commentary piece from Peter Dobrin in the 8/23/2018 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Given that Ross’ tweet from February singled out Philadelphia, Dobrin’s post is uniquely at.

Dobrin highlights some of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s efforts to rectify the lack of women programming. He lauds several initiatives by name but also admits that some are rather ham-handed.

Still, among the overtures to women in the past weeks, the orchestra has hit upon some clumsy solutions. The addition of works by Anna Clyne and Stacey Brown to existing programs is all to the good. But both works are short and still leave the orchestra without a major artistic statement this season by a woman.

News last week that the orchestra would read through works by six female composers in a one-day workshop in collaboration with the American Composers Orchestra was welcome.

Adaptistration People 211Also in the news is this article by Emily Siner in the 8/23/18 edition of Nashville Public Radio that highlights not only a complete lack of women composers amid masterworks programming but an all-male guest conducting roster for the 2018/19 season at the Nashville Symphony Orchestra (NSO). While the NSO does include women soloists, it’s a 12/88 ratio with men.

The NSO’s programming was brought to light by a tweet from, a database of excerpts and complete works composed by women & categorized by theoretical concept.

Sites like MTEW and the Women Composers Database (project details) go a long way toward providing programming resources for orchestras of all budget size to explore women composers and identify candidates and their works.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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