Limited Time 3:1 match on all donations. Donate Now or Learn More

Women Composers’ Beautiful Impact On Orchestral Music

Women have been at the forefront of every major revolution, discovery and cultural change – including music! Female composers have profoundly impacted orchestral music. 

Interestingly, women have created music for as long as it has existed, but they haven’t always been celebrated. Although women were active in all elements of the Classical Era of orchestral music, social norms didn’t allow them to receive music education or perform publicly. Because women were not allowed to perform in public groups, many taught themselves how to play, compose music and evoke emotion using musical instruments. This drive to learn – and be equal to the male composers and musicians of the time – led to some of the women’s greatest contributions to orchestral music! Those contributions include:

  • Music education: Because teaching was seen as a more feminine field, many women entered the orchestral music scene by teaching others. Their passion and commitment to teaching led to many more generations of musicians. 
  • Storytelling: Women brought a unique perspective to the orchestra scene. Having faced discrimination and sexism from men, women’s compositions often evoked the powerful feelings they had experienced. Their storytelling through new notes, techniques and arrangements proved impactful in the larger culture.
  • Diversity: By bringing their unique perspectives to orchestral compositions and performances, women helped diversify the orchestra for people with other identities. Women paved the way for other marginalized groups, including people of color and disabled folks, to join the orchestra. 

With a few of their orchestral contributions in mind, let’s explore seven women who shaped and transformed the orchestra. 

6 Women with Powerful and Transformative Orchestral Impacts

Francesca Caccini

The Italian composer, poet and singer Francesca Caccini created beautiful melodies during the Baroque era. Caccini’s singing prowess earned her international recognition, and she used her understanding of singing to compose additional pieces. Her compositions have helped music historians understand romanesca, a repeating harmonic-melodic formula that enthralled the era.

Florence Beatrice Price

Florence Beatrice Price was a contemporary composer, singer and music teacher active from 1927 till her death. As one of the only Black women composers at the time, her music was often ignored or suppressed. It wasn’t until several decades later that orchestras began performing her compositions and recognizing her amazing contributions. Her compositions have been performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra,  San Francisco Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Barbara Strozzi

Barbara Strozzi was a Baroque composer in Venice. During her early composing years, she was often ridiculed for being so active in the music scene – something seen as masculine and unladylike. However, Strozzi used her father’s connections to create beautiful arias, ariettas and cantatas.

Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann was a creative composer credited with making ordinary passages sound colorful and complex. Because of her dedication to music, she set new standards for playing compositions from memory – a practice still used today. Additionally, she channeled improvisation skills to make her music more fluid and cohesive. 

Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho was a Finnish composer who studied at many universities and was well-traveled. Because of her exposure to spectral music, she became interested in computer-generated music. She composed orchestral pieces incorporating obscure sounds and objects, including synthesizers, creating a distinct and revolutionary sound.

Edna Phillips

Edna Phillips was the first woman to join a major American orchestra in 1930. Her induction to the Philadelphia Orchestra inspired hundreds of other women to pursue professional, public work in the orchestra scene. She faced endless adversity from men in the orchestra who did not support her, but she remained steadfast in her dedication to creating beautiful orchestral music.

Hear Compositions from Women through LCSO

Celebrate women’s contributions to orchestral music by attending a local event. The La Porte County Symphony Orchestra celebrates women composers and musicians at every event. Our orchestra is comprised of phenomenal musicians who exemplify women’s powerful impact throughout the centuries. Get tickets to an LCSO show today to hear their amazing work!