Women Composers Project


Sapphire Woodwind Quintet is dedicated to featuring music by women composers. One of their favorite concert programs showcases music composed by women throughout history and includes works by Maddalena Casulana (1500s), the first woman to have her music published, as well as German composer Fanny Mendelssohn,  and French composers Cecile Chaminade and Elsa Barraine. Also featured are living composers such as Alexandra Molnar-Suhajda (listen here), Francine Trester (learn more here), and Amy Riebs Mills (learn more here).

The quintet has worked directly with Amy Riebs Mills, and premiered her composition New Dancing Shoes. Amy was present at the concert and spoke about her work.

The quintet’s interest in women composers was sparked by the following statistics:

Women Composers in Film

  • Only six women have ever been nominated by the Academy Awards for best original film score, with three of them winning. The most recent one was Anne Dudley’s score for The Full Monty in 1997.
  • A 2018 study from the University of California explored gender disparity in film. Exploring a sample of 1,100 film, which were the top 100 films of each year from 2007-2017, only 43 women worked as directors. That’s 4% women, as opposed to 96% men, in a ten-year period.
  • The same study revealed that only 16 women worked as composers in those ten years. The total for the men?  1,202.

Source: Settling the Score –  Oscar Nominees Highlight Gender Disparity in Film Composition, by Hannah Schiller, February 22, 2019

Women Composers Represented in Orchestral Music

In the top 21 US orchestras, the percentage of works by women composers that were programmed has increased in recent years, but is still very low:

  • 3.1%  in the 2017-2018 season
  • 4.9%  in the 2018-2019 season
  • 8.6% in the 2019-2020 season

Source: Women Composer Stats, published by Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy, https://wophil.org