Diverse Musicians’ Alliance will host a concert featuring female composers

“Persevering Legacy” performers in 2018 (Courtesy of CU Presents)

In the world of classical music, there is a significant under-representation of female composers and their works. According to a new study by the DONNE Foundation. Now, a group of CU musicians are stepping into the fight against this problem.

At 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays February 9 and 16 at the Imig Music Building, The Alliance of Diverse Musicians, a student branch of the CU LEAD Alliance will raise awareness of these composers and their legacy with two concerts featuring all-female programs. To combat this problem of underrepresentation, DiMA created an annual concert, “Persevering Legacy”, to highlight the works of underrepresented female composers.

“I think the most valuable and important part of this concert is that it’s student-led,” said Susan Thomas, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Director of the American Music Research Center at CU Boulder. “This is the generation of musicians that has the potential to change the musical canon and standardize the interpretation of the works of these composers.”

“An Enduring Legacy” is an initiative that began in 2018 with the aim of making works of the Hellen Walker Hill Collection, preserved in the archives of the AMRC. Walker-Hill, a Canadian pianist and musicologist who studied with Nadia Boulanger, has spent decades compiling material from black female composers in the United States and England. Its collection includes works by more than 100 women, including Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Valerie Caspers, Rachel Eubanks and Zenobia Powell Perry.

“This concert helped people become aware of the collection and the incredible work of Hellen Walker-Hill as a fundamental specialist in the field of diversity in music,” said Thomas.

This year, the concerts are supervised by Dr. Alejandro Cremaschi, professor of piano pedagogy at CU Boulder and director of DiMA. Cremaschi encouraged student performers to include pieces by various women, past and present. Undergraduate and graduate students will perform 90 minutes of rarely heard music, which will diversify the musical spectrums of the audience.

“My favorite part of ‘Persevering Legacy’ is seeing students play and light up doing something they love,” said Alexis McClain, diversity and outreach coordinator for DiMA. “It gives students the opportunity to do this work in a space of equity in which they lead the way. Being able to see the hard work on display and support it is the best part.”

Each concert includes a wide range of composers and a wide variety of instruments, from double bass to oboe and voice. The February 9 concert is evenly split between contemporary American composers, including Jenni Brandon, Jessie Montgomery, Libby Larsen and Dorothy Chang, and 20th-century European and American composers, including Price, Bonds, Grazyna Bacewiz and Ida Presti.

The February 16 concert focuses more on 20th-century composers, including Perry, Pauline Oliveros, Mary Watkins, Eubanks and Irma Urtaega, and also includes 19th-century French composer Cécile Chaminade and contemporary composers Angélica Negròn and Lauren Bernofsky.

The concerts will take place on Wednesday, February 9 and 16 in the Grusin Hall of the Imig Music Building and will also be broadcast live on CU Presents.

Contact Haley Lauritzen, UC’s Independent Arts Editor, at [email protected]