Female Composers Take the Stage – Tomas Escobar, Hampton School
This year, millions of children around the world will take music examinations, as part of some of the most popular examination boards internationally. However, the vast majority will play the music of white European and American men, many of whom lived during a time of colonization and slavery. When so many other aspects of education have been ‘decolonised’, why should school music remain rooted in the past?
While it is true that many great musicians in history are white men and much of their work should not be discredited, it is safe to say that an ethnic minority composer would have found much more difficult to find work as a musician in the 18th century for example, and they would have had far fewer opportunities to become a musician, especially before the 20th century. One such example is Fanny Mendelssohn, the sister of the highly successful Felix Mendelssohn, who lived from 1805 to 1847, and who has been credited with mentoring Felix and writing many of his plays, having been limited by the social expectation of a higher class. woman like her at the time. On a different note, the Royal College of Music, which is one of the most prestigious music conservatories in the world, introduced jazz into its curriculum in 1987, and Leeds College of Music was one of the first to do so in Europe, introducing it in 1965. Considering the long chronology of jazz music and the reluctance of European education as a whole to accept jazz as a form of music, it can be seen that many many musical institutions are rooted in old traditions. Additionally, many review boards continue to produce programs broadly similar to those of 100 years ago, with the majority of pieces coming from pre-20th century white male composers.
Recently, at the Hampton School, a concert was organized, consisting exclusively of female composers. Several students performed a variety of pieces, ranging from composers such as the innovative Chiquinha Gonzaga, who was the first female conductor in Brazil, to the aforementioned Fanny Mendelssohn, and each featured composer was honored with an introductory overview of his life and accomplishments. Audience member Thomas Bainbridge said “it was a great event to champion the work of some fantastic female composers, whose work has sadly been out of the limelight for too many years now”.
The Western world of music education has always been largely male-dominated, but progress has been made towards diversifying curricula.