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Classical Notes

British Composer Awards controversy: Does classical music need a female-only prize?

Posted at 2:29 PM on December 4, 2013 by Jay Gabler (3 Comments)
Filed under: Awards & Accomplishments

Marin Alsop.jpg
Marin Alsop. Photo by Grant Leighton.


The winners of the 2013 British Composer Awards have been announced: 14 talented composers. To be precise, that's 14 talented male composers.

To blogger Jessica Duchen, this suggests a question that's so urgent she puts it in all-caps (referring to the number of categories, 13, rather than the actual number of winners): "HOW IS IT POSSIBLE IN 2013 THAT 13 MEN GET PRIZES AND THERE IS NOT ONE WOMAN IN THE LINE-UP?"

It's no secret that achieving diversity — of all types — among participants and audiences has been as much a challenge for classical music as for any art form. Progress is being made, even at the highest levels: this year, American conductor Marin Alsop became the first woman ever to lead the BBC band at the Last Night of the Proms. As the British Composer Awards (and caveman comments like those by Vasily "a cute girl on a podium means that musicians think about other things" Petrenko) evince, however, we're still a long way from equity.

Duchen offers a suggestion: "It is time for an all-women prize for classical music. Women are achieving great things in this field — but they are not being adequately recognised for it. This time we need more than a list. We need action and we need it now."

What do you think? In the quest for gender parity at parchment and podium, would prizes specifically for women musicians and composers help?


Comments (3)

Was there no picture available of any female composer? I mean...Marin Alsop represents her profession well, and is the obvious choice for an article (or a short blurb referencing other articles)...but why not do a quick search for faces of female composers ?

Posted by Amy | December 4, 2013 3:23 PM


Amy—I chose a photo of Marin Alsop since she's mentioned by name and we had a photo available, but you're right, a photo of a female composer would perhaps have been even more appropriate.

Posted by Jay Gabler | December 4, 2013 3:57 PM


Yeah, I got that. You had a picture handy, and finding one of a female composer would have been more work. I'm certainly not a journalist, I would have thought relating the photo to the headline would have made sense.

Posted by Amy | December 6, 2013 1:31 AM