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Whenever someone asks me about 5th Wave Collective, I tell them our mission and how we are trying to bring music by women to the forefront, normalizing this practice.

Can you guess the most common response?

“Oh cool! So you must do all new music?”

And although it hurts to hear, it also contributes to my drive to try to do something to change this misconception.

Women have been actively composing since the 10th century, yet very few are present in modern history books.

Despite their background, despite their challenges, despite their situations, we still must at least acknowledge their existence today. It’s hard to find information on them, but unless we do the work, we will continue to remain ignorant of the wonderful women composing alongside Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and many other ‘masters.’

True, it’s easy to program what other people have been playing for centuries now, defending it with, “That’s the way it’s always been done.” Or to say, “Well, I just don’t know of any good female composers, and I don’t really like modern music.”

Worthwhile works by female composers are out there; it just takes a little extra effort to seek them out.

I like to say that 5th Wave all started with a spreadsheet and a few conversations. Back in March 2018, close to International Women’s Day, I had two conversations that ignited the spark for me.

The first was in a studio class with my teacher, Alex Klein, and oboists at DePaul University. Someone was working on Clara Schumann’s Romances, so Mr. Klein brought up the topic of female composers and how we deal with their music. Many good points came up during this, but the big one I left thinking about was the fact that people assumed the women who did compose were second rate and thus should be acknowledged but not performed.

Also following this discussion, I realized that hardly anyone knew of oboe works by female composers, first or second ‘rate.’ So, being a spreadsheet enthusiast, I decided to create a database of these women and their compositions to help myself and my peers find these important pieces.

To my surprise, it exploded. Within only a month, I had found over 800 pieces.

As I was discovering so many works, I thought: “Why the hell isn’t any of this being performed?! And where can I play it?”

There wasn’t a concert series in Chicago that highlighted female composers, so figured I could fill that void.

Yes, it took a lot of work and an open mind, but how else are we going to paint an equal image of society if we don’t celebrate music from all genders? Women comprise of at least half the world’s population, so it makes no sense that in 2018 we are still allowing the top major orchestras to fill less than 2% of their programs with female composers.

Isn’t half the population worth it? Isn’t progress and equality worth it?

Just give her a listen, then let’s talk.


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