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The Joyful Muse: Part I, Women in Music

Updated: 6 days ago


PART I: DUO THALIA: Women in Music


Violinist Xueao Yang and cellist Kendra Grittani created Duo Thalia  in 2019. Called after the Greek Muse whose name means joyous and flourishing, the duo has chosen  to perform repertoire that is indeed joyous, celebrating the flourishing creative life of women in the arts.


Women, as composers and performers, are historically under-represented in classical music. There are cultural reasons for this, all of a piece with the idea that a woman's place was in the home. Public performance by women in any context was considered immodest and inappropriate.   

This bias has been slow to shift. Not until 1997 were women permitted to even audition for the Vienna Symphony.  The great orchestras of the world are still largely the domain of male musicians.  More women are emerging in the field, however they tend to appear in smaller orchestras with minimal budgets. To see a woman in a leadership role remains the exception. As for composition: only about five per cent  of the music programmed for performance is written by women composers.  (See https://theviolinchannel.com/the-league-of-american-orchestras-new-2023-report-diversity-in-the-orchestra-field for statistics)


A similar disparity is evident when we talk about ethnic and cultural diversity in the field. That has to do with “classical music” traditionally being associated with exclusively Western European traditions of music-making as well as broader social-political biases. Class, race, and ethnicity as well as gender continue to be significant  factors determining access to a career in classical music. ( See https://americanorchestras.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Racial-Ethnic-and-Gender-Diversity-in-the-Orchestra-Field-in-2023.pdf for statistics)


Thankfully, all of this is changing, due in part to initiatives on the part of funding agencies such as the Ontario Arts Council encouraging inclusiveness and a broader exploration of creative possibility. QSCM’s Joyful Muse Program, supported by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council as well as support from the Municipality of Centre Hastings and local donors, presents work created entirely by women, each one writing the music of our times.   To learn more about these four composers of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds see Program Notes Part 2.




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