Women Composers Project


Sapphire Woodwind Quintet is committed to featuring music by women composers. More than Muses: Female Composers Throughout History, is an ever-evolving concert program that explores music written by often overlooked and unappreciated female composers, such as a Byzantine nun, Prussian royalty, and numerous prodigies. This multimedia presentation includes beautiful music, colorful slides, detailed program notes and a spoken introduction to each piece, which provide both historical context and anecdotes about the many obstacles these trailblazers overcame in pursuit of their art. Highlights include original arrangements of pieces such as the Divertimento by Anna Amalia, the introduction to Fanny Mendelssohn’s Cholera Cantata, and Adoration by Florence Price. Also featured is music by living composers such as Alexandra Molnar-Suhajda and Valerie Coleman.

Sapphire Quintet’s repertoire includes works by living composers, such as Alexandra Molnar-Suhajda (listen here), Francine Trester (learn more here),  Amy Riebs Mills (learn more here), and Valerie Coleman.

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