The Cabrillo Festival has championed new music since it was founded in the 1960’s. Under the leadership of Marin Alsop, who has directed the festival since 1992, the annual summer event has delighted new music enthusiasts with exciting concerts, commissions, and premieres. The 2015 Festival, which began last weekend, will highlight the work of several important and increasingly-heard women composers.
The concert on Saturday, August 15, titled Wish You Were Here will include the World Premiere of Eating Flowers by Hannah Lash (a Festival Commission) and the West Coast Premiere of River Rouge Transfiguration by Missy Mazzoli.
It is notable that Lash, Mazzoli, and Lara (among others) were named Resident Composers at this year’s Festival. Be sure to read Alsop’s interview with KQED. Alsop addresses questions about the works being performed this year and (you guessed it!) what it’s like being a woman working in classical music:
There are so few women running classical music organizations. What is your responsibility as the conductor at the Baltimore Symphony and at Cabrillo to change that?
People often ask me why there aren’t more women conducting on the podiums of the world. It certainly hasn’t changed dramatically over the last 30 years since I was a young conductor. I was surprised by that. I sort of assumed that there would be more and more women in these roles. But I think that unless we as women in leadership roles decide to be really proactive in changing the landscape, it won’t change. So it manifests for me in a fellowship that I created in 2002 for young women conductors. We just appointed our 11th recipient of the fellowship. And I have to say that of those women, they’re all doing fantastically well. Four of the women are American music directors. Another has her own orchestra. So everyone is succeeding in changing that landscape for future generations.
I read that your mother supported your dream of being a conductor despite the fact that there were very few women conductors when you were coming up. What did she say to you?
Oh my mother and my father both supported my dream to become a conductor. But my parents were both professional musicians, so as long as I was going to be a musician, they were very happy. When I was told things like, “oh girls can’t be conductors,” my mother would always say, ‘that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” Growing up in a family where there were no restrictions and no preconceptions about what a girl could or couldn’t do was instrumental in my pursuing my dream.
Did anyone ever tell you, “you’re a woman so you can’t do this”?
Of course. Many times. I have different reactions when people say you’re not good enough. That’s one thing. That’s changeable. But saying you can’t do something because you’re a woman: that’s absolutely idiotic. I just ignored that entirely. That is a fundamentally flawed argument and shows that the person is someone who’s very threatened and not very secure in themselves.
I’m sure I am not alone in finding this line of questioning frustrating – and I can only imagine how tired Alsop is of answering these questions. Yet, that these questions are consistently asked only demonstrates how much more work needs to be done before women can gain equal footing as conductors, and composers. And so we continue to applaud the work of Alsop and the Cabrillo Festival for giving voice to up and coming, and established, composers.
For those of us who aren’t able to attend this weekend’s concerts, here is Mazzoli’s River Rouge Transformation in the World Premiere, performed by the Detroit Symphony: