You may not often see their faces, but there is a large and dynamic community of women composers creating new music. “Not that many women have broken through to attain the status of say a John Adams,” admits Anna Rubin of the International Alliance for Women in Music. “But then again, not that many men have either.”
In an effort to grant women support and attention within the music community, the IAWA annually holds the Search for New Music Awards. The contest is devoted to identifying promising female composers, with special dispensations being made for students and women over fifty years of age. In this last round, the IAWM had over 70 women enter one or more pieces in the various categories. The composers who entered represented several countries and ran the gamut of compositional styles.
The winners are:
- Po-Chun Wang, currently a Master’s student Boston University, was awarded the Ellen Taaffe Zwilich prize (for women age 21 and under) for her piece Three Movements.
- Currently at work on her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, Jean Milew was granted the Libby Larsen Prize (for women currently enrolled in school) for Sudden Light.
- One of two Gideon Prizes (for women age 50 and over) was given to Joelle Wallach, a recent doctoral graduate from the Manhattan School of Music, for her piece A Revisitation of Myth; the other Gideon went to Jennifer Fowler, a Londoner, for her Magnificat 11.
- The Judith Lang Zaimont prize (for women in or out of school, age 30 and up, whose music has not yet been recorded or published) went to Dorothy Chang, an Assistant Professor of Music Composition at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, for her Wind/Unwind.
- Hsiao-Lan Wang, a DMA candidate at University of North Texas, was granted the Pauline Oliveros Prize (works for electro-acoustic media) for her Green Potato II.
- At work on her Ph.D. at the University of York, UK, Sungi Hong was given the Theodore Front Prize (for women 22 and over) for The Light of the World.
All winners were given cash awards ranging from $150 to $400.
When asked about the status of women in the new music field, Rubin notes that “rumor has it that there are fewer applicants to composition departments in general.” Added to that, composers of both sexes face the challenges of declining recording sales and exposure on FM radio. Rubin finds that many women are turning to technology to jump the hurdles. “Women are making their mark in cutting edge multi-media and Internet art and I suspect that many young women in the next twenty years will be attracted to these new genres.” She suggests that women interested in this meeting of technology and the arts visit IAWM president Kristine Burns’ award-winning site, WOWEM (Women On the Web/ElectronMedia–a “big sister”-type advice site offering articles that detail various aspects of the media arts). She also hopes that awards such as those presented by the International Alliance for Women in Music will continue to “motivate composers to keep going.”