Monthly Archives: October 2015

What Ever Happened to Michael Henson?

“What ever happened to Michael Henson?”

I’ve been asked this question countless times. I’ve been asked this question loudly, quietly, surreptitiously, obviously, outside of concert halls, inside of concert halls, in moving cars, in non-moving cars, and, most recently, in the lobby of the Madison Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, during a personal vacation that was not Minnesota Orchestra related whatsoever.

I’ve always been vague because I didn’t know the answer ( “um, consulting work…I guess”). (And the Pulitzer for best investigative blogging goes to…) But as long as I’m happy with the direction in which the Minnesota Orchestra is going, and I am, I don’t really care what its former leader is up to. Yes, the question of his whereabouts is interesting to think about in the abstract, but any answer you might uncover has little practical use. If bread is square, why is sandwich meat round? That’s an interesting question, too. But it only does you so much good to think about it.

That said, some new intelligence recently landed in my lap in the form of Michael Henson’s LinkedIn profile.

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Can American Orchestras Do Better At Including Women Composers?

This is a follow-up to the recent widely-read entry In Which I Learn Why There Are No Great Women Composers. Liane Curtis got in touch with me during the hullabaloo, wondering if I would be interested in covering the grants made available by Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy. I didn’t have time to write anything this week, so I invited her to post a guest entry. According to her bio:

Liane Curtis is a musicologist and the founder and President of both The Rebecca Clarke Society, and Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy, non-profit organizations which are based at the WSRC [Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University]. A former Fulbright Scholar, Liane has taught at a wide range of colleges and universities, including Wellesley, Ohio State, and (in 2011 and 2007) at Brandeis University. She has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Bay Windows, The Musical Times, The New Grove Dictionary of Music, the National Women’s Studies Association Journal, Women’s Enews, The Gay and Lesbian Review, and other publications. In October 2006, Liane was a Fellow in the National Endowment for the Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera.

An impressive resume, but for me the thing that stands out about Liane is that she Cares Deeply About This Stuff. About a year ago, when I was beginning my study of the Clarke viola sonata, I sent her an email asking where the manuscript was. She sent me a link to a PDF of it right away. Never mind I was a largely self-taught violist based out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, who had no plans to perform the piece publicly. (The manuscript, by the way, is fascinating – a must-read for any violist – and can be perused here.) She cares, and she was excited that I care, and that generous and free exchange of knowledge is hugely meaningful and exciting and awesome. Agree or disagree with any of her premises, she is a woman on a mission, and I appreciate that.

So here is her guest entry. If you’re connected with an organization that is looking for grants, take note! – Emily

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Can American orchestras do better at including – rather than excluding – women composers???

And can the grants offered by Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy help?

by Guest Blogger Liane Curtis

The recent inflammatory article in the Spectator (by Damian Thompson – no link here so you don’t encourage the clickbait), squashed so deftly by Emily E. Hogstad in this blog, and on New Music Box, reveals an overt instance of how deep-seated, hostile bias against women composers continues to survive. While overtly sexist statements such as those in the Spectator article are not as common as they were in the past, these same values are played out routinely in the current practice of dismissing and ignoring music by women. In short, when we see many orchestras routinely programming NOT ONE  SINGLE work composed by a female in their entire season of classical orchestral programming, it is agreeing with Damian Thompson’s ignorant opinion that “there are no great women composers, [and] that’s because creative geniuses are rare and, in the past, so few women wrote music. There may be some in the future…” The orchestras that are in this group this season (2015-2016) include: the Cleveland Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony and Utah Symphony. Just to point out one grievous case, the San Francisco Symphony is based in the city that was the home of The Women’s Philharmonic for all of its 20-plus years. Much of their past extensive fan base is there and would be eager to hear works by women. But one of our WPA supporters tells me that the SFS has excluded women composers in 17 of its past 20 seasons. The SFS prides itself for its creative, inventive programming, but to be so emphatic in ignoring women makes one wonder if there is some deep-set misogyny there.

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