Cracking the Concert Hall N ew works by women composers Counter inequality in the orchestral world. By Christianna McCausland W hen Kristin Kuster was asked to write a themed piece of music for the BSO’s “Centennial Commissions” series, she chose the theme of Marin Alsop. The BSO music director, says Kuster, a 42-year-old composer and associate professor of composition at the University of Michigan, “is such an important figure for female musicians, not only in orchestral music but in art music.” Kuster’s Alsop-inspired piece, entitled Moxie, which the orchestra played at the BSO Centennial Gala on Kuster describes her work, Moxie, as a “fun, five-minute party in honor of Marin.” “ February 11, is one of 10 new works by contemporary composers inspired by more than 100 ideas submitted by the public in response to the BSO’s call for ideas from the Baltimore community. The composer describes the work as a “fun, fiveminute party in honor of Marin.” “It honors her verve and her drive to just do it and to do it at such a high level,” Kuster adds. Six of the ten commissions are by female composers, making the Centennial Commissions an important milestone not only for the BSO, but for women in orchestral music, seemingly one of the last places Frederick Huber where females remain BSO Music Director underrepresented. 1937 The commissions are made possible by generous support from Classical Movements, a music touring company founded by female entrepreneur Neeta Helms. In addition to Kuster, the other women composers are Joan Tower, Libby Larsen, Caroline Shaw, TJ Cole, and Lori Laitman. Kuster also premiered a work in 2015 with the Cincinnati Symphony’s “One City, One Symphony” program, with commissioned pieces set to poetry by Maya Angelou, and will debut her original opera, Old Presque Isle, at the Virginia Arts Festival in 2017. She says that Alsop, a champion of new music, has been an important role model for her and her contemporaries, as has Larsen, Jennifer Higdon, Joan Tower, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, and Betsy Jolas. “There are many more women composers featured now than ever before, but the numbers are still really bad and do not represent the number of female composers who exist and who are awesome and who are willing and able to write for orchestra,” says Kuster. “It seems to me that the people in charge of making programming decisions are choosing not to program women, and that’s a problem.” Limitations placed on women musicians are largely a matter of tradition and have no more foundation in logic than withholding the vote franchise from them.