We went back to the numbers – and looked back over the past three seasons – to see how the most prestigious ensembles in the United States are shaping their programming in terms of inclusion and diversity.  There has been significant pressure in recent years, between the #MeToo movement and the 2020 Centennial of Women’s Suffrage, for ensembles to jump on the proverbial bandwagon and get with the program and wake up and smell the coffee!  But we have yet to see if the social pressure that some of these ensembles have experienced, and reacted to, will mean lasting changes.

So here is a look of who is scheduled to play what during the 2020-2021 season, and how their inclusion of works by women has changed over time.  We looked at overall percentages of works which, quite frankly, is a difficult comparison.  It suggests that every work is equal, when there is in fact a tremendous difference in the space taken up by a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 versus the six minutes it takes to perform Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps.  Turns out there is manspreading in music, too.  The fact is that most of the works by women that are programmed are done so as “fillers” to the more dramatic (i.e.: longer and thereby more “significant”) works on the program.  An analysis of exactly how much time women’s works are given in any given concert season is a project for another time.

Which also brings me to the steady decline in total number of works being performed each year.  While I have no answer for this, I am sure that there is no single factor involved.  Shorter seasons due perhaps to budget shortfalls (or additional family programming, or touring, etc.) or the performance of fewer large works instead of several smaller ones are all, no doubt in play.  But one downside to that is the change in statistics.  For example, while it looks as though San Diego is slowly but steadily increasing the number of works by women they include, they have only included two works by women in each of the last three seasons.  The rise in representation (percentage-wise) is only due to the overall number of pieces declining.

Again, this is not a perfect system.  But we need to have evidence – data – so that when we raise our voices about the lack of representation we have indisputable truth to accompany it.  And while the figures are, in general, rising – consider the rate.  Philadelphia made significant strides in the 2019-2020 season – due directly to public outcry – and have already slipped backwards.  In the same way, the New York Philharmonic boasted their Project 19 with new commissions celebrating the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, and they, too, are already performing fewer works in the coming year, even in the midst of their commissioning project!

How does the saying go?  We haven’t come a long way, and don’t call me baby.  

Those of us who are feeling cautiously optimistic should still write, call, tweet, and call out your favorite ensembles to be more inclusive.  Now is not the time to back off, but to push onward.  We have already proven that social pressure works.  As in so many areas of our life during this pandemic, nothing is known about the future except that it will look radically different from our past.  Now is the time to encourage positive changes in programming, in performance, and in remaking what the face of classical music looks like, and represents, moving forward.

Here are the works by women have been programmed for the 2020-2021 season:

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
A Portrait of a Lady by Swan Lake – Victoria Borisova-Ollas
Snags&Snarls – Unsuk Chin
(New Work) – Anna Clyne
Umoja – Valerie Coleman
Walkabout – Gabriela Lena Frank
weaves flowers and leaves – Hannah Kendall
And the brightest rivers glide… – Gity Razaz
Laterna Magica – Kaija Saariaho
Piano Concerto – Clara Schumann
Symphonic Poem No. 2 – Galina Ustvolskaya

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
(New Work) – Angelica Castello
Jump! – Judit Varga

Boston Symphony Orchestra
(New Work) – Julia Adolphe
Angelus – Victoria Borisova-Ollas
Prologue for Orchestra (American Premiere) – Sofia Gubaidulina
Midnight Sun Variations – Outi Tarkiainen
Chamber Dance – Joan Tower
Her Story for vocal ensemble and orchestra – Julia Wolfe

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
(New Work) – Gabriela Lena Frank
Starburst – Jessie Montgomery
Ethiopia’s Shadow in America – Florence Price
Winter Sky from Orion – Kaija Saariaho
Her Story – Julia Wolfe

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
(New Work) – Julia Adolphe
Concerto for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Band – Sofia Gubaidulina
(New Work) – Gabriela Ortiz
A Short Piece for Large Orchestra – Julia Perry
Aeriality – Anna Thorvaldsdottir
Metacosmos – Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Cleveland Symphony Orchestra
Puzzles and Games from Alice in Wonderland – Unsuk Chin
Light and Dark (solo organ) – Sofia Gubaidulina
Light of the End – Sofia Gubaidulina
Tumblebird Contrails – Gabriella Smith

Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Frontispiece (US Premiere) – Unsuk Chin
Coincident Dances – Jessie Montgomery
En otra noche, en otro mundo (World Premiere) – Angelica Negron
Above Light: A Conversation with Toru Takemitsu – Xi Wang

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Fanfares – Helen Grime
(New Work) – Veronika Krausas
In Hopes of Finding the Sun – Hannah Lash
Symphony No. 3 – Florence Price

Houston Symphony Orchestra
“The Song of Cleopatra” from Three Legendary Women – Mel Bonis
Within Her Arms – Anna Clyne
Double Percussion Concerto – Jennifer Higdon

Los Angeles Philharmonic
(New work) – Clarice Assad
Violin Concerto (World Premiere) – Julia Adolphe
Clarinet Concerto (West Coast Premiere) – Unsuk Chin
(New work) – Angelica Negron
Remnants of Songs…An Amphigory (US Premiere) – Olga Neuwirth
(new work) – Elizabeth Ogone
Hominum: Concerto for Orchestra – Gabriela Ortiz
Piano Concerto in One Movement – Florence Price
(new work) – Kay Kyurim Rhie
Asteroid 4179: Toutatis – Kaija Saariaho
Tumblebird Contrails – Gabriella Smith

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
D’un matin de printemps – Lili Boulanger
Piano Concerto – Florence Price

Minnesota Symphony Orchestra
Icarus – Lera Auerbach
Concerto for String Orchestra – Grazyna Bacewicz
D’un matin de printemps – Lili Boulanger
Within Her Arms – Anna Clyne
Pachamama Meets an Ode – Gabriela Lena Frank
Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) – Missy Mazzoli
Strum – Jessie Montgomery

National Symphony Orchestra
D’un matin de printemps – Lili Boulanger
D’un soir triste – Lili Boulanger
(New work) – Jessie Montgomery
Symphonic Poem – Galina Ustvolskaya
Her Story – Julia Wolfe

New York Philharmonic
(New Work) – Jessie Montgomery
(New Work) – Caroline Shaw
(New Work) – Anna Thorvaldsdottir
(New Work) – Joan Tower

Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra
Frontispiece for Orchestra – Unsuk Chin
When it Hits the Ocean Below – Melody Eotvos
Picaflor (World Premiere) – Gabriela Lena Frank
Symphony No. 1 – Florence Price
Words for Departure (World Premiere) – Hilary Purrington
Enso (World Premiere) – Xi Wang

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
(New Work) – Stacy Garrop
(New Work) – Gloria Isabel Ramos Triano

San Diego
Ge xu – Chen Yi
Metacosmos – Anna Thorvaldsottir

San Francisco Symphony
Margaritena – Teresa Carreno
Frontispiece for Orchestra – Unsuk Chin
Umoja – Valerie Coleman
(New Work) – Fang Man
Virga – Helen Grime
Fairytale Poem – Sofia Gubaidulina
A Little Summer Suite – Betsy Jolas
Piano Concerto – Florence Price
Entr’acte – Caroline Shaw
Sixth Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman – Joan Tower
Her Story – Julia Wolf
NIM – Younghi Pagh-Paan

Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Symphony in E Minor – Amy Beach
At the Speed of Stillness – Charlotte Bray
(New Work) – Reena Esmail
warp & weft – Sarah Gibson
A Little Summer Suite – Betsy Jolas
Kanashibari – Hannah Kendall

St. Louis Symphony
Goddess Triptych (World Premiere) – Stacy Garrop
Violin Concerto – Helen Grime
Overture in C Major – Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
(New work) – Jessie Montgomery
Starburst – Jessie Montgomery
Symphony No. 3 – Florence Price
Entr’acte – Caroline Shaw
Liguria – Andrea Tarrodi
Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1 – Joan Tower
Made in America – Joan Tower

Utah Symphony & Opera
Aquilo (U.S. Premiere) – Arlene Sierra
Bird Symphony (World Premiere) – Arlene Sierra
Nature Symphony (U.S. Premiere) – Arlene Sierra