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Sound of Charlotte Blog

100 Years of Voting Rights for Women

Today marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which prohibits states and the federal government from denying U.S. citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. To celebrate this historic achievement, the Charlotte Symphony is using its platform to highlight the many contributions of women in classical music. We asked a few CSO musicians and conductors to share with us a list of women composers who they wish everyone knew more about.

Jessie Montgomery

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st-century American sound and experience. 

"She's an extremely talented individual, an accomplished violinist and chamber musician in the Catalyst Quartet, and I've been so proud to perform her wonderful music alongside the rest of our canon of timeless art pieces. I hope we will continue to share her beautiful work with our Charlotte community!" - Principal Violist Benjamin Geller

The Minnesota Orchestra performs Montgomery's Starburst, a work performed by CSO musicians at Off the Rails last season.

Gabriela Lena Frank

Born in Berkeley, California to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Gabriela explores her multicultural heritage through her compositions. Her music often reflects not only her own personal experience as a multi-racial Latina, but also refract her studies of Latin American cultures, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own.

"Gabriela Lena Frank is a varied & important fixture in American composition, has numerous awards & Composer in Residence credentials, and has founded a Creative Academy of Music which enables opportunity for dozens of up & coming composers. Her string orchestra piece 'An Andean Walkabout,' written for A Far Cry in Boston, is both visceral in energy & jarring rhythmically. A terrific, monumental piece that I love." - Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees

Frank's Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout performed by chamber orchestra group A Far Cry.
 

Barbara York

Barbara York has been working in both Canada and the U.S. for over 40 years as a concert accompanist, choral and theatrical music director and composer. Her score and lyrics for the Canadian musical Colette won a Dora Mavor Moore Award (Canada's version of a Tony) in 1981.

"I think her music is important to be celebrated because, to be honest, I just really like it. When I have performed some of her solo pieces, they have spoken personally to me, and I found myself lost in tunes that I wish I had written myself." - Trombonist Thomas Burge

CSO Trombonist Thomas Burge performs York's Elegy for an Angel, Mvt 1. 

Cécile Chaminade

Cecile Chaminade was a French composer and pianist. In 1913, she was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, a first for a female composer. Chaminade's music has been described as tuneful, highly accessible and mildly chromatic.

"When I was 13 years old, Chaminade's Concertino for Flute and Orchestra was one of the first big flute solos that I had ever performed. It's a very popular piece for young flutists, and I didn't realize until years after playing it that Chaminade is actually female!" - Youth Philharmonic Conductor Jessica Morel

"Chaminade composed more than 400 pieces, but the Concertino is her most beloved and remains an important piece in the flute repertoire.  Though her father did not permit her to attend the Conservatoire de Paris, she was able to study composition privately and eventually gained popularity as a composer and pianist." - Flutist Amy Orsinger Whitehead

Chaminade's Concertino for Flute and Orchestra performed by Hayley Miller and the Boston Philharmonic conducted by Benjamin Zander.

Nkeiru Okoye 

Nkeiru Okoye's genre-bending compositions reflect her many influences - Gilbert & Sullivan, the Gershwins Sondheim, Copland, gospel, jazz, and Schoenberg. She specializes in works that celebrate the African American experience. In 2018, the Charlotte Symphony commissioned her to write an orchestral piece in celebration of the city's 250th anniversary. 

"I think Nkeiru Okoye is important because her works incorporate many different sounds and styles from cultural areas that are both part of her own personal journey, and also are part of a larger narrative regarding the history of African American people. Spending her youth divided between living in New York and Nigeria, she offers an important personal perspective through her music that also highlights a broader cultural connection that resonates with many Americans." - Trombonist Thomas Burge

A playlist of works by Okoye.

Inspired to learn about more women composers? A great place to start is Music Critic Anne Midgette's list of the top women composers in classical music from The Washington Post.

Posted in Classics, Community. Tagged as Classical, composer, women composers.

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