Nashville Symphony Criticized For Not Performing Works Written By Women | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville Symphony Criticized For Not Performing Works Written By Women

Aug 23, 2018

A website that promotes female classical composers is criticizing the Nashville Symphony for not performing works written by women.

The site Music Theory Examples by Women tweeted yesterday that the orchestra is not playing any works by female composers this upcoming season. It also pointed out no women will be conducting the orchestra this season.

The criticism is part of a series called Season Stats, which calls out other major orchestras across the country that have similar gender disparities.

Steve Brosvik, the Nashville Symphony's chief operating officer, says it's an issue the group is aware of and trying to address.

"It's a fair assessment," he said. "We don't have a work by a female composer during the main season, and we don't have a female conductor on the podium. And I would say in our programming meetings, we do talk about that issue."

Brosvik says the symphony is already working on upcoming seasons that will have more diversity — in gender, ethnicity and nationality.

Part of the challenge comes from the prevalance of male composers in centuries past: The works that have become known as iconic are largely written by men.

Brosvik says there's been a "growing wealth" of female-composed pieces during the 20th and 21st centuries for orchestras to pull from now. But groups tend to highlight only a few highly lauded female composers, according to an NPR story in June. One of those composers is Jennifer Higdon, who is frequently commissioned to write works, including by the Nashville Symphony:

 The New York Philharmonic will play the world premiere of a new work by [Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia] Wolfe in January. Out of 49 composers, Wolfe is joined by only one other woman in the upcoming season. It's a ratio that doesn't sit well with Higdon. "Heck, you know what? Half of humanity is made up of women," she says. "So why is it we only see one to two percent of the programming of women?"

Female composers will be performed in upcoming months by other music groups in Nashville. The chamber music ensemble chatterbird is premiering a piece by Wu Fei in February, and the Gateway Chamber Orchestra will feature a piece next month by Cristina Spinei. The Alias Ensemble is also opening its season with a work for violin, clarinet, toy piano, toy glockenspiel and tuning forks, written by Phyllis Chen.