We have a long history of uplifting women, providing opportunities for leadership on and off the Symphony Hall stage. In addition to this history, as a central part of our 75th Anniversary Season, our orchestra will play a series of works by American women composers.
“When planning a season, I always review our past seasons to see which works or composers are due for special attention. For this 75th Anniversary Season, I knew I would be planning a lot of blockbuster audience favorites.” says our Music Director Kevin Rhodes, “However, I felt it was also very important to feature works by current composers living and working in the 21st Century since great music is not just a thing of the past. While reviewing possible works to feature, I was intrigued by the striking trend that so many of these exciting new pieces were written by American women composers. I then decided that this group of composers was deserving of special attention given their relative absence on concerts for most of the history of concert music. With all of that in mind, it gives me great pleasure to feature not just great new music, but to make a special focus on great new music by the group of composers least present on past programs.”
This celebration of women in orchestral music begins with our concert Scheherazade & American Women Composers on Saturday, February 2nd, 2019. The orchestra will perform Bal Masqué, a signature work by Amy Beach, the high matriarch of American women composers, 6th Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman and Sequoia by Joan Tower, and Blue Cathedral by Jennifer Higdon, one of the most acclaimed living American composers. Classical music lovers will realize just how far we’ve come when the orchestra contrasts the creative accomplishments of these three invaluable American women composers with the uncertain fate of the slave, Scheherazade.
“The SSO recognizes the rightful place of American women composers in the history of orchestral music,” says Susan Beaudry, our Executive Director, “We’re delighted to utilize the extra excitement around our 75th Anniversary Season to uplift the works of these brilliant women.”
In addition to the February 2nd concert, we’ll also play a piece called Prayer and Celebration by Augusta Read Thomas at the February 22nd Mendelssohn’s “Italian” & Brahms concert and the second movement from Libby Larson’s String Symphony No. 4 called Beauty Alone during the Beethoven’s 5th and Liszt concert.
The majority of our concerts this season also feature women soloists and guest artists. Rachel Barton Pine will perform Brahms only Violin Concerto on an instrument chosen by Brahms himself, Natasha Paremski will perform Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto and Claire Huangci has committed to a herculean feat; two Liszt Piano Concertos in one concert.
Outside of programming and the concert hall, we embrace and celebrates women in the world of classical music. Over the past twenty years, we’ve been a leading example of a women-forward organization; increasing the number of women hired as performers on stage and as staff members in our offices. We try to lead by example, choosing women like Susan Beaudry as Executive Director, Masako Yanagita as Concertmaster, Marsha Harbison as Assistant Concertmaster, Shari Guyer as Production Stage Manager, and Kirsten Lipkins as Education Director and Librarian.
Giving women a fair and equal opportunity to showcase their power and expertise is something we value and execute in a very practical way through their practice of “blind auditions.” Musicians who audition for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra do so behind a screen that conceals their identity from the jury. Studies show that this practice increases the likelihood that hiring decisions are made more based upon artistic qualifications and merit, and less on internalized biases.
Join us as we celebrate women in the world of classical music during our 75th Anniversary Season!