Exciting News from the Grammys! the NY Youth Symphony has won a GRAMMY in the competitive category of Best Orchestral Performance, with their CD of music by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, and Valerie Coleman! Many are pointing out that it is the first time for a Youth group to win, BUT also it is a first for a historic Black woman composer to win, and possibly also a first for a Black woman composer (living OR historic) to win. And really, a CD of music three Black women being nominated for a Grammy is something we couldn’t imagine happening even 10 years ago! So much amazing change and discovery!
And it is the first time that a winner of one of our Performance Grants (in 2019) has won a Grammy — after the pandemic shutdown of 2020 the ensemble pivoted to making a recording (instead of having a concert), working under social distancing protocols and recording in small groups — the entire ensemble was never together. The producer is Judith Sherman, a 14-time Grammy winner a9she just won for classical producer of the year) and Michelle Cann is the piano soloist in Price’s Piano Concerto.
NYYS Music Director Michael Repper is adamant about the inclusion music by women and BIPOC, stating in the NY Times “Orchestras don’t deserve any extra credit at this point for performing works by Black composers. They don’t deserve any extra credit for performing works by women. It’s something that should have been done for decades.” And his pinned tweet is unequivocal: “Classical musicians: PLEASE! No more talk about when we can “get back to normal.” What was “normal” is DONE and good riddance. We need a NEW normal that celebrates diversity and inclusion ON AND OFF STAGE. Everyone has a responsibility. Anything less would be failure. [end rant].”
So Congratulations to all the wonderful young musicians of the New York Youth Symphony for this well-deserved award!
Now, changing the subject from a Positive to a Negative.
We’ve been holding off from writing about the film Tár, a showcase for actor Cate Blanchett. In a world where women are still so often denied access to power and recognition, to spotlight (a fictional) one who has achieved those qualities but who is a pathological abuser is simply misogynist. And Marin Alsop has weighed in, sharing our opinion: “There are so many men – actual, documented men – this film could have been based on but, instead, it puts a woman in the role but gives her all the attributes of those men. That feels anti-woman.” (quoted in The Independent) And in Variety: “To assume that women will either behave identically to men or become hysterical, crazy, insane is to perpetuate something we’ve already seen on film so many times before.” …. “I think all women and all feminists should be bothered by that kind of depiction because it’s not really about women conductors, is it? It’s about women as leaders in our society. People ask, ‘Can we trust them? Can they function in that role?’ It’s the same questions whether it’s about a CEO or an NBA coach or the head of a police department.”
We’ll be back soon with more news!