This year at SAU our performing arts department has focused on women in music. The first concert “Music. She Wrote” featured the chamber and heritage choir singing pieces with female composers. In addition to this, a concert performed by Michael Womack and Kelly Johnson featured on clarinet, included many songs written by women as well.
Women have been involved in music as early as the pre-medieval era, most of these composers up until the 1700’s were part of convents and churches where they expressed their music in the form of poems and liturgies. Despite their role in creating and up keeping music, women were often unacknowledged for their contribution. Most female musicians were not recognized if they participated in music outside of religious affiliation or family name.
Most female musicians were quickly forgotten after they passed away, however, a few managed to make themselves known despite societal standards. Such musicians included Clara Schumann, a German pianist who was one of the first openly accepted female composers.
As the late 1900s approached, women were recognized for their ability to create music. Musicians were no longer only instrumentalists or singers but got to focus on a variety of areas that allowed them to create a name for themselves.
Women like Ethel Smyth became an advocate for the women’s suffrage movement. Her famous piece “The March of the Women” was the anthem of the suffragette's in the UK during this time. Others went on to sing songs delivering harsh views on how they saw the world, such as Billie Holiday, who released her song “Strange Fruit” in 1939.
Overall, the performers at SAU are doing a wonderful job conveying the strength and presence women have in the music industry. They are certain to continue creating a powerful image of women's importance in music history.