Story at a glance
- A new report from the Institute for Composer Diversity found that during the 2021-22 season, work from women composers and composers of color made up 23 percent of all programmed pieces.
- The report found a 400 percent jump in programmed work from women and minority composers since 2015.
- Although American orchestras have improved their repertoire diversity, more work can be done.
American orchestras have long favored the repertoires of classical composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and have struggled to incorporate the music of living composers, especially those from marginalized groups.
But a new report released this week from the Institute for Composer Diversity shows that orchestras are improving in terms of the diversity of composers whose music they perform.
Now, work from women and minority composers makes up almost 23 percent of programmed work, a 400 percent increase since 2015.
The study found that the use of work from living composers has almost doubled, with only 11.7 percent of all work used in orchestras coming from a living composer in 2015 to now 21.8 percent of pieces coming from living composers.
While the programmed works by women and composers of color increased, programmed works by composers who are women of color have experienced the greatest boost, according to the study .
In 2015, only 0.4 percent of programmed work in American orchestras were created by women composers of color, according to the report. This year, that work from female composers of color jumped to 6.1 percent, representing a 1,425 percent increase over the last seven years. Programmed works by living composers who are women of color increased from 0.4 percent in 2015 to 4.6 percent in 2022.
“The goal of this report is to explore the repertoire programming of professional orchestras in the United States in the 2021-2022 season and to put that programming into context through a longitudinal examination of repertoire since 2015,” the report states. “To spoil the surprise, they are indeed programming differently. Much has improved, but there’s still more work to do.”
Women composers and composers of color with the most programmed performances this season include Lili Boulanger; Anna Clyne; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; Duke Ellington; Gabriela Lena Frank; Jessie Montgomery; Florence Price; Joseph Bologne, chevalier de Saint-Georges; and William Grant Still.
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