Okay … have at it: name women composers in the comments. Ready … set … go!

Do note: I’m happy to say that I did play a work by a woman composer (Madeline Dring) on the recital this past Sunday.

Student Jessy McCabe has started a campaign to ensure that women are represented on Edexcel’s next A-level music syllabus.

After participating in a programme exploring gender inequality, McCabe realised that there were no women amongst the 63 composers featured on the Edexcel A-level music syllabus.

Despite the exam board’s assertion that the course aims to enable students to ‘engage in, and extend the appreciation of the diverse and dynamic heritage of music, promoting spiritual and cultural development’, its head of music seemed reluctant to implement change. In response to an email from McCabe, they wrote: ‘[since] female composers were not prominent in the Western Classical tradition (or others for that matter), there would be very few female composers that could be included [in the A Level?specification]’.



  1. Ching-Mei Lin, Ya-Ting Lee, Hannah Lash, Vera Ivanova… just to name a few :))

  2. I think, though, that they might be looking for older composers that are considered a part of the standard rep, and there is our problem!

  3. Kaija Saariaho, Jennifer Higdon, Ellen Zwillich, Augusta Read Thomas, Shulamit Ran, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Julia Wolfe, Caroline Shaw.

    And that’s off the top of my head.

  4. What about older composers? I realize we don’t know of many, but …?

  5. Do you mean dead composers?

    Amy Beach, Fanny Mendelssohn, Ruth Crawford (small output, but a fine, fine composer), Clara Schumann, Germaine Tailleferre, Lili Boulanger.

  6. Yes. I just don’t like typing “dead”, I guess! Sorry. NOT that I don’t want living women composers! (And why the heck we aren’t performing them more is a mystery to me.) OH … and are there any female opera composers?

    (Okay, okay, I should do my own homework. Lazy me!)

    I have a few works for oboe by women, but certainly not many. Higdon sent me a recording of her wonderful concerto. I have Dring here. And Crawford Seeger. I think that’s IT.

  7. Saariaho is a very accomplished opera composer and Higdon’s adaptation of Cold Mountain was recently premiered at Santa Fe.

    As for post-living women opera composers, that will take a bit of research.

  8. I should have remembered Cold Mountain: I had heard it was well received. I’m sorry to admit I’m not well acquainted with Saariaho’s work: we heard one piece of hers with SF Symphony, but that’s it.

    If I’m remembering correctly Higdon is the ONLY female composer we at our local symphony have ever performed. Yes. EVER.

  9. Hildegard of Bingen! Cécile Chaminade!