"The greatest barrier to women entering composition is the way they are raised as musicians: when we study our instruments as kids, the music that we play is almost all by men," Eleanor shares. Being raised in that environment, it's harder for young girls to imagine themselves as composers. Fortunately, things are starting to change, where performers are wanting to expand their repertoire with works by women and people of color.
Eleanor also tells me about The Composer Diversity Database
, which is a great resource for finding music by ensemble type and difficulty level and searching by composer identities across a wide range of demographic criteria.
"The biggest change has to come with our earliest music education: giving kids a variety of repertoire and having them see names on those scores that look like their names, composer pictures that look like their pictures. That way they can see themselves as potential composers.
For educators at every level, we mostly pass down the music we love, which is the music we know, which is the music we were taught. The people who write music textbooks, run radio stations, and program symphony concerts often fall into the same pattern. That is how the canon perpetuates itself and stays rather small.
As educators, we have the responsibility to keep discovering new works by new voices and introducing them to our students. There is so much wonderful music out there that deserves to be heard more.
Speaking of beginning musicians: last year I collaborated with the Penny Lazarus piano studio, which raised money to expand the early piano repertoire with pieces by women composers of the last 900 years.
I made a few of the arrangements and brought along some Berklee student composers for the project as well. You can preview and purchase these arrangements here
at Sheet Music Plus."