Every year the League of American Orchestras releases statistics on the repertoire that is performed by member ensembles. The information is collected and painstakingly compiled so that arts administrators, musicians, and academics can take notice of trends and changes in the music being heard on American soil.

As with most arts organizations over the past several years, the League has faced some cutbacks and has been a bit behind on their repertoire reports. But the happy news is that the 2009-2010 season reports have recently been made available to the public (available here).

As in the past, (you can see my past reports on these statistics here and here) I went through the report to see exactly where music by women composers was being heard; the numbers, unfortunately, were not terribly surprising. But there was some good news, too.

It should be understood that these figures are not perfect—I was only able to work with the information that was provided, which was somewhat incomplete. For example, no repertoire was reported from Atlanta, Buffalo, Detroit, Houston, National, Rochester, San Francisco, and St. Louis symphonies, among others. But, this data is still valuable and worth consideration.

  • Of the 6,249 performances, there were 45 performances of works by women composers – about  0.7% (*Note: these figures include every reported performance of every work, including repeat performances)
  • Of the 1,671 pieces that were performed, there were 39 pieces composed by women – 2%
  • Of the 490 composers represented, 29 were women – 6%
  • Of the 29 composers, only one was born before 1850 – Francesca Caccini.
  • Out of 137 orchestras, 30 performed works by women – 22%
  • Of those 30 orchestras, 3 were youth orchestras.

For some perspective, there were 457 scheduled performances of works by Beethoven (7% of the total works performed compared to the 0.7% of works by women).

There were 47 performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 alone.
The good news is the number of premieres of works by women during the 2009-2010 season.

US Premieres included:

  • Unsuk Chin’s Concerto, Sheng and Orchestra, Su
  • Augusta Read Thomas’s Helios Choros II

World Premieres included:

  • Margaret Brouwer’s Concerto, Viola
  • Gabrielle Haigh’s Poeme-Rituel
  • Dorothy Hindman’s Urban Myths
  • Rebeca Mauleon’s Suite Afro-Cubano
  • Missy Mazzoli’s These Worlds in Us
  • Amy Scurria’s What the Soul Remembers
  • Wendy Snellen’s Suite de Musica de Guitarra Para Orquesta
  • Stella Sung’s The Frog and the Well (Chamber Version)
  • Gwyneth Walker’s By Walden Pond
  • Diane Wittry’s Lamentoso

There was a tie for the grand-prize of number of works performed by an orchestra—the American Composers Orchestra and New Haven Symphony each performed four pieces. And there were some surprises among the “top” orchestras—Boston Symphony performed Augusta Read Thomas’s Helios II, the New York Philharmonic performed two pieces by Francesca Caccini, and Chicago (which, already has a decent history of including at least a few works by women composers each season) performed two pieces by Ruth Crawford-Seeger as well as a piece by Kajia Saariaho.

As the League continues to work to publish reports from more recent years, I’ll be interested to see what developments will be seen. For example, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has clearly demonstrated their commitment to performing a diverse range of the orchestral repertoire, particularly the under-performed works by women, both historic and contemporary.