A Celebration Of Women In Classical Music

Mar 3, 2016

How do you celebrate Women’s History Month in classical music, when the genre's history names few women composers? At NWPR over the past year, one answer has been: find what music you can, and play it. Inspired by Women’s History Month 2015, we took on a challenge to program at least one piece by a woman composer each day.  Yes, it’s a token, but this month, we trade in those tokens for a reward.

Cecile Chaminade of France and Amy Beach of the United States, both pianists, were born in the mid-19th century, when the legendary German concert artist Clara Wieck Schumann was at the height of her career. Beach and Chaminade—both of whom lived until 1944--must have known of each other: each famously concertized on the other’s continent. In America, Chaminade’s work was so popular that music lovers from Massachusetts to Mississippi founded “Chaminade Clubs”; some still exist today. “Beach Clubs” supported children’s musical education. And Beach founded the Society of American Women Composers, which just 22 years ago joined two international organizations to become The International Alliance for Women in Music.      

This month, we’ll explore stories—and lots of music— from dozens of history’s musical women whose compositions the world is still just getting to know. But don’t let our project stop you from exploring on your own! Here’s a list of the composers we’ve included in our challenge year. How many of them do you know?

Hildegard von Bingen

Marguerite of Austria


La Contessa

Maria Joaquina Rodrigues

Clara Wieck Schumann 

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel

Nadia Boulanger

(also see the below - Nadia conducts Lili’s music)

Lili Boulanger

Germaine Tailleferre

Augusta Holmes

Cecile Chaminade

Amy Beach

Louise Farrenc

Rebecca Clarke

Ethyl Smyth

Florence Price

Ruth Crawford Seeger

Marion Bauer

Irene Cozad

Adeline Shepherd

Julia Niebergall

Judith Lang Zaimont

Gabirla Lena Frank

Gwyneth Walker

Evelyn Glennie

Conni Ellisor

Ellen Taffe Zwillich

Augusta Read Thomas

Karen P Thomas