We recently posted our initial findings for the data we collected from the 2019-2020 season, and have received many comments and questions, and I’ll answer as many as I can!

We were asked was any composer besides Beethoven had more works performed than the total number of works by women composers.  The short answer is no.  The longer, more complicated answer is that Mozart came close (at almost 5% of all the works being heard) and that just a handful of 20 dead, white, male composers make up over 50% of all the total programming.  This pie graph is dizzying, but clearly shows what those of us in favor of more diverse programming are up against:

While Beethoven is clearly King, the other usual suspects clearly carve out their own, leaving little room for anyone else, and stagnating the concert season with the same music over and over again.  There are some exceptions, however.  Note in the above graph that John Adams alone receives 1.1% of the total performances.  So the tendency is not against new music as a whole. Apparently no one is worried about works by Adams  pushing out the so-called “great masters.” So would increasing the number of works by women really be so dangerous?  It’s also notable that Adams, himself, often conducted his own works, and thereby advocating for them.  Which leads us to our next question:

What is the ratio of men to women as conductors in the top orchestras?

Across the 2019-2020 season of the 21 top orchestras,  a total of 142 different conductors wield the baton.  Of those, 16 are women.

The women are:

Marin Alsop
Karina Canellakis
Han-na Chang
Migra Grazinyte-Tyla
Emmanuelle Haim
Karen Kamensek
Eun Sun Kim
Carolyn Kuan
Tianyi Lu
Susanna Mälkki
Gemma New
Ruth Reinhardt
Dalia Stasevska
Nathalie Stützmann
Simone Young
Xian Zhang

These women conduct a total of about 10% of all works being performed:

Another important statistic is who conducts works by women.  Of the 142 conductors, 46 conduct at least one work by women in the coming season – about 30%.  Marin Alsop, Stephane Deneve, and Yannick Nezet-Seguin tie for the win for the most works by women being conducted this season, with each conducting six.

For the disappointments, there are many.  Gustavo Dudamel is only conducting one work by a woman composer (a new commission of a work by Gabriela Ortiz), as is Michael Tilson Thomas (a new commission from Julia Wolfe), and Robert Spano (Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra), and Thierry Fisher (Kaija Saariaho’s Asteroid 4179 – Toutatis).  Meanwhile, Leonard Slatkin, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andres Orozco-Estrada, and Edo de Waart aren’t conducting any.

As we all think about these statistics, especially in comparison to the symphonic concerts that many of us would like to attend, I would also like to share our data so that this work can be verified, and other eyes/minds can pull useful information.  For example, my work didn’t look at total run times for the individual works.  We know that only 6% of the performances are works by women, but how long is the actual performance time for those pieces?

All of the data I collected can be accessed via this Google Sheet – feel free to copy, paste, sort, explore, share, and let me know what new information this data provides!  And if there are other questions we can answer, let us know!