2022/2023 Season Post III: Works by Women Composers

[This year I collected and analyzed the subscription concert programming for 51 orchestras in the U.S. and Canada. This is a pretty big expansion from my effort last year when I just looked at the ‘top’ 19 orchestras in the U.S. You can see last year’s posts here and here.]

Sadly, the shaky commitment orchestras have to diversity and variety that I mentioned in my post on BIPOC composers, continues in the wrong direction, with the percent of works by women composers dipping ever so slightly from 12.1% in 21/22 to 12.0% in 22/23. It is one area, however, were the ‘top’ 19 orchestras look slightly better than they did last year. If I isolate results for those 19 orchestras their total is 12.4% which is slightly higher than their overall percentage last season as well as better than the larger group this year.

more women get a chance

Although the overall percent is pretty dismal, one improvement over last season is that the pool of women composers being programmed almost doubled from 57 to 99. Granted there are an additional 1,445 total works programmed this season over last, but I like what it suggests about the industry recognizing the breadth of women composers to choose from.

men are programming women?

I guess a bit of good news is that men are programming women? Women only lead three of the orchestras in the top 21 (Hartford, Atlanta, and Richmond), so it appears like men are being reasonable? Women music directors don’t appear to be skewing programming towards women composers. And I was all set to make an anecdotal observation about women guest conductors and the degree to which they do or don’t program women–partially influenced by what I ‘felt’ as I did the data entry over the course of several months, and partly based on this list of the top 21 you see above. But then I thought, hold on fella, you have the data, crunch the damn numbers. So I did. And it tells a different story.

some other thoughts
  • Orchestre Métropolitain continues to show leadership in programing coming in at #1 after a strong showing in pieces by BIPOC composers. (And Orchestre symphonique de Montréal does much better after their dismal showing in pieces by BIPOC composers.)
  • Overall the ‘big’ orchestras do better as a percentage compared to the overall field than they did with BIPOC composers.
  • Orchestra-rich Ohio continues to be bad at diversity with their four orchestras coming in at 31, 37, 45, and 48. And I have to say another word about how bad Cleveland is. No women on the podium, 49th in BIPOC programming and 48th in works by women. Seriously. It’s time for Franz Welser-Möst to be shown the door.
  • Michigan appears to be the anti-Ohio with both the Grand Rapid Symphony and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra placing quite well in both programming works by women and works by BIPOC composers. And Detroit has one of the most exciting bits of programming next season with a February concert that ends with Dora Pejačević’s symphony. I’ll be making my way to snowy Detroit for that concert.
the whole list

3 thoughts on “2022/2023 Season Post III: Works by Women Composers

  1. Chris Wolak July 17, 2022 / 1:35 pm

    I played violin and cello as a kid and my parents often took me to the symphony. Your post made me realize that I’ve never seen a woman conductor live. Granted, I haven’t gone to the symphony in decades (which you are making me want to remedy). I wonder if there’s any correlation between diversity and ticket sales. In the theatre world I’ve heard the argument that they have to stage X number of classics to sell season tickets. Franz has got to go. Also surprised by Seattle’s low ranking.


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