In the spring of 2017, composer Stacy Garrop posed a question for the wind band Facebook hivemind: what is your favorite piece for wind band or ensemble? Hundreds of replies came in from band directors across the country, and all of the responses had one thing in common: they were all pieces by men. Not a single woman was mentioned, even though the pieces ranged in date from the early 1900’s with the Holst “Suites” to the present day with pieces by modern composers like Steven Bryant and John Mackey.
Stacy posed the same question the next day, after the all-male suggestions were pointed out, asking for pieces for wind band only written by women. What has followed since that post has been an influx of resources and advocacy for performances of music by composers who are not white men, and a search for solutions among music educators to diversify their programs in an effective way. Women composers and composers of color are woefully underrepresented in the classical music field in general and the time for a change in program diversity is long overdue. This article seeks to begin the conversation of how programming can reflect the demographics of our ensembles and our audiences, and to offer a number of preliminary solutions on how to make this change possible.
I would like to begin this article with bringing attention to several resources that are available for conductors and educators that have been created in the last year. After Stacy’s post in May, I created the Women Composers of Wind Band Music database, a collection of over 800 pieces for wind bands at all difficulty levels written by women. The database, formatted as a publicly accessible Google Spreadsheet, can be sorted by difficulty level, length of composition, and the date it was written, and also has links to composer websites as well as YouTube and Spotify recordings, where available. The database is continually updated, and will likely be past 1,000 pieces soon.
Article by: Christian Folk