Author: Emily Doolittle

Why Yes, I Do Want My Music Performed

A woman with her back facing the camera standing between a blue door and a red door

Sometimes, when I have the time and energy and don’t feel like it will put my career at stake, I open up a conversation about gender balance in concert programming with those who have a record of performing or programming only or primarily works by men. Some simply haven’t noticed (as our bias towards thinking of composers as male is still so strong), but are open to change. Some are aware and eager to discuss ways to redress the imbalance. But a few dig in to defend their choices. After some back and forth, those reluctant to program equitably inevitably arrive at some version of: “But surely you wouldn’t want your music played just because you’re a woman? Surely you would want it played because you’re good?” As if this is some kind of novel and amazing trump card. As if I’m not already aware that some people think music by women is inherently less likely to be good. As if my confidence in my own work (and that of other women) is so shaky that simply knowing that some people might question its worth because of my gender will cause me to crumble and doubt myself and stop trying to get my music out there (and presumably get back into the kitchen, and make us all some coffee, please…)

The thing is: surely I do want my music played… and I don’t really care why! I want everyone’s music to be played more often, so in writing this I don’t intend to place undue emphasis on me and my music. What I want for myself, I want for all of us! I know that some believe that for composers who are women, people of color, LGBT, and/or underrepresented for any other reason to have more opportunities, straight cis white men will have to cede some of theirs, but I don’t believe that new music is a zero sum game. Rather than reducing opportunities for some so that others can have a chance, let’s increase opportunities for all, and make sure the opportunities are fairly distributed.

Most music is never programmed solely because it is good.

Most music programmed is “good,” but music is never programmed solely because it is good. Considerations such as instrumentation, length, fit with the other pieces on the program, and availability of scores always play a role. Yet these considerations are never held out as being in inherent opposition to a piece being “good”. In my 28 years as a composer, I have yet to hear someone say: “But surely you wouldn’t want your piece played just because it’s a string quartet? Surely you wouldn’t want it played just because it’s nine minutes long? Surely you wouldn’t want it played just because it goes well with the other pieces on the program? Surely you wouldn’t want it played just because your publisher’s website isn’t broken?”

In any case, my music is good, and should be heard more often. I don’t mean this arrogantly: I use “my music” here to stand in for all of our musics, and I think all composers’ music should be heard more often. Of course the best performances happen when the performers love the piece: but how will performers even find out if they love the piece or not if they don’t play it? And if the performers never come to love the piece, whether because of sexism or because they genuinely don’t like it? Well, that’s okay too. I don’t think there are any performers who love every piece they’ve ever performed. (I certainly don’t!) Any professionals worth their salt would still do their best to perform well. The audience may love it. Other performers may hear it, love it, and decide to play it. I’ll benefit from another performance (and perhaps will find ways to tweak the score to coax a good performance out of even a hostile performer). It’s another performance on my CV. It’s another score sold. It’s royalties. I don’t usually think about performances in such utilitarian ways, but I bring up these points here simply to illustrate that even if someone does program my piece “just because” I’m a woman, the consequences are really not that dire! (As composer Patricia Wallinga tweeted in response to my tweet-length version of this article, “Exactly! How would I feel [if someone commissioned me “just because” I’m a woman]? F**ing great paying my rent with the commission check, thanks!”)

Sometimes even wonderful champions of music by women take great pains to reassure me that they’ve programmed my piece because they love it, and not “just because” I’m a woman. While I’m always happy to know that someone loves my piece, I’ve never actually been worried that someone has programmed it “just because” of my gender. In fact, I’m always pleased to know that gender, racial, and other kinds of equity are important to a programmer! Just as “I don’t see colour” has not been an effective approach to fighting racism, “I don’t see gender” is not going to be an effective approach to undoing the sexism that has kept women composers in the shadows for so many centuries.

It’s only been in the last ten or so years that gender imbalance in programming has been discussed openly and often.

In my experience, it’s only been in the last ten or so years that gender imbalance in programming has been discussed openly and often. For many years, I and so many other women did everything we could to avoid drawing attention to gender imbalance at all, as if somehow mentioning it would make things worse (which in some circumstances it might have). Internalized sexism caused so many of us to believe women’s works were inherently inferior, and that gender imbalanced programs merely reflected a gender imbalanced distribution of “good” music. But as a Canadian-born composer, I do have long experience with another kind of programming that takes more than just whether a piece is “good” or not into account, the Canadian Content (“CanCon”) requirement, which stipulates that a certain percentage of radio and TV broadcasts consists of work by Canadian creators and/or performers. CanCon was introduced in the early 1970s to give Canadian artists, who had previously been overshadowed by artists from the USA and Europe, a chance to develop, thrive, and reach audiences in Canada and abroad. Similar initiatives from the Canada Council for the Arts and other Canadian funding bodies preferentially support ensembles that perform Canadian music, enable ensembles to commission pieces from Canadian composers, and fund tours of Canadian music and ensembles abroad.

Many initially grumbled about being required to include Canadian music, just as some now grumble about the idea of taking gender into account when making programming choices. Even those who benefited (and continue to benefit) from CanCon and similar requirements recognized that the system was not without flaws: Canadian composer Murray Schafer’s No Longer than Ten (10) Minutes, for example, gently pokes fun at a frequent stipulation of commissions from ensembles who are trying to do the bare minimum to meet Canadian content quotas. American friends, upon hearing about CanCon requirements are often skeptical. “But doesn’t this mean ensembles are just grudgingly playing works they hate? Shouldn’t they only play the pieces if they like them?” they ask. Well, sure, sometimes ensembles do end up playing pieces they don’t like. But just as often, ensembles come to love pieces they initially thought they wouldn’t like. Or they discover that while they don’t like the music of one Canadian composer, they do like the music of another. Over time, they come to find pieces they love, build up relationships with composers, and in so doing, help the composers develop relationships with the larger music community and with audiences beyond those typically found at new music concerts.

Canadian-born, UK-based organist Sarah MacDonald’s account is fairly typical. In “UK REPORT for Canada’s 150th – Canadian music in the UK,” published in the Spring 2017 issue of Organ Canada (the journal of the Royal Canadian College of Organists), she writes of how as a teenager she was “particularly irked” that she had to play a piece by Oskar Morawetz instead of a piece by Brahms in an exam, but she has since come to recognize the importance of CanCon and similar requirements. “My personal grumblings aside (Canadian disContent?), one positive implication of the imposition of CanCon obligations was that Canada had come of age, and now had its own post-colonial cultural identity which needed to be nurtured and shared, as well as protected. We… could contribute on an equal footing with the rest of the world. So, has this actually happened? Have we contributed bona fide Canadians (whatever they are!) to the international cultural stage? Manifestly, the answer is yes.” While the specifics surrounding the introduction of CanCon requirements and the need for gender balance in programming are quite different, I do think these parallels are instructive.

Go ahead and program my work “just because” I’m a woman.

So yes, go ahead and program my work “just because” I’m a woman, “just because” I’m Canadian (or American or Scotland-based), “just because” it’s a string quartet, or for any other reason you please. If someone has already decided in advance that they don’t like pieces by women because of our gender: well, that is their problem, not mine!

The Long-Term Effects of Gender Discriminatory Programming

Special thanks to Neil Banas for creating the interactive model below.

“We need to be patient.”

“The music will find its home.”

“Change is coming.”

“But it’s not about fame, it’s about doing the work you love!”

“Surely you don’t want people playing your music just because you’re a woman?”

“Your time will come. Her time will come. Our time will come.”

“The best music will rise to the surface!”

“Things are getting better!”

“We’re discovering it now!”

“Just be patient!”

Over the years, whenever the under-representation of women composers is discussed, I keep hearing variations on the themes above. Whether these phrases come from those wanting to encourage women composers, those downplaying the existence of sexism, or indeed from women composers ourselves trying to look on the bright side, the underlying message is, “Yes, it’s frustrating, but we just have to wait. We’ll get our turn. Things will be okay!” And on the one hand, sure, I’ll wait (while also being stubborn and persistent and working for change). I’m hardly going to give up composing because there may be a statistical likelihood that my pieces will be performed a bit less frequently than those of a male peer! But on the other hand, let’s not pretend this is reasonable or that enforced waiting doesn’t have real, long-term consequences: real consequences in terms of opportunity, real artistic consequences, real financial consequences – and ultimately, real consequences for who gets to continue being a composer.

A complicated lineage leads to and from each piece, each performance, each commission, each award, and each royalty check.

The longer I trace my own career and observe the careers of students, friends, and colleagues, the more I see the complicated lineage that leads to and from each piece, each performance, each commission, each award, and each royalty check. Piece A is premiered, then performed six more times by people who heard the premiere, one of whom commissions piece B, which he performs and sets as repertoire for his students, who go on to perform it professionally. After a couple of years, the royalties add up to enough to pay for a couple of months off teaching, during which time one writes piece C… Or piece D is commissioned by an orchestra, which premieres it. The recording is sent to a competition and wins, resulting in the commission and premiere of piece E. Another orchestra decides to perform pieces D and E and invites the composer to be composer-in-residence, which puts the composer in touch with a donor who is able to fund the creation of piece F… Over the years each piece develops its own trajectory, almost always something completely unpredictable at the outset. One finds new opportunities, new ideas, and new collaborative partners in the most unexpected of ways. But what happens if piece A is never performed? Or is performed four years late? What happens if the performer assigns a different piece to his students? What happens if piece D is never commissioned? What happens if the composer residency doesn’t take place?

It doesn’t take much of an initial difference in the rates of commissioning, performing, or promoting works by women for the cumulative effect over the years to become striking. Let’s say (and I think this is a generous overestimate) that a woman composer’s works are 95% as likely to be performed as those of a man composer of equivalent accomplishment, and that she is 5% less likely to be commissioned than her male colleague. In order to illustrate the knock-on effects of what initially seem like small differentials, we’ve made a handy, interactive computer simulation of how these play out in the long term.

 

Matthew writes new piece(s) without a commission each year.

Each of his works has a % chance of being performed the year it is written. Each time it gets performed, it has the same chance of being performed the following year.

He receives a new commission every performances (although he never composes more than pieces per year).

He receives an average of $ in royalties for each performance, and an average of $ for each commission.


Mathilda has equal experience as a composer and manages her career in the same way, except that for her, the chances of a performance are %, not %, and she receives a new commission after every performances, not .


After years, Matthew has about performances per year, and Mathilda has about (% as many). They have composed and works, respectively, of which % and % were commissioned. At this point in his career, Matthew earns $ from composing in a typical year, while Mathilda earns $.

The interactive model above was created expressly for this article by Neil Banas.
Drag mouse/finger to the left or right on the blue text to decrease or increase the number.

As you can see, what seem like small differences in the rate of performance or recognition compound yearly and can have an enormous impact over the course of a career.

Depending on the combination of our upbringing, our cultural background, our gender, and our personality, we may think of ambition as admirable or abhorrent.

Writing about our careers—and particularly about the way outside factors may or may not influence them—can make us feel very vulnerable. If we’re not doing as well as we had hoped, and we admit it, someone may jump in and say, “Well, maybe your music just isn’t good enough,” or—and I’m genuinely surprised by how often I still hear this—“I’m not sexist, but there’s just not very much good music by women.” If we are doing as well as or better than we had hoped, will celebrating our successes seem boastful? Will we hurt our friends who are doing less well? Will we “jinx” things?[1] Depending on the combination of our upbringing, our cultural background, our gender, and our personality, we may think of ambition as admirable or abhorrent. We may think of contentedness with our careers as the ultimate goal, irrelevant, or a sign of laziness. But we need this kind of scrutiny if we’re going to figure out where inequities still exist and begin to address them. If the second edition of an anthology proudly proclaims that it now includes works by women composers, but the percentage of works by women is smaller than the percentage of women who are composers, then the anthology is still part of the problem. Or if I’m teaching a class on, say, contemporary Canadian music, and 20% of the pieces I include are by women, but 24% of contemporary Canadian composers are women, then I’m part of the problem.[2]

In any case, we don’t have to look at this individually. Perhaps my career has been magically untouched by sexism: perhaps yours has been, too. The fact remains that sexism, both conscious and unconscious, affects most women’s careers. In the UK, 51% of the population is female, 36% of composition students are women, 21% of commissions go to women, and only 7% of orchestral commissions – which tend to be the most prestigious and highest paid – go to women. In the US, 22% of music theory/composition students are women, but only 14% of major orchestra commissions go to women. Twenty-four percent of living composers who belong to the Canadian Music Centre are women, but women make up only 11% of the music composition faculty working in Canada.[3]

Composing is a hard profession, but let’s make sure we’re not making it even harder for people who don’t fit the expected profile.

I’m absolutely not suggesting here that middle class, white, cis male composers have it too easy. Composing is a hard profession: even those with the most advantages may struggle to find non-exploitive work situations, social recognition, and financial stability. I want to live in a world where the arts are valued, and things are better for all of us! But in this already hard field, let’s make sure we’re not making things even harder for people who don’t fit the expected profile of a composer. Women are of course not the only composers who get left out: the farther one deviates from the straight, cis, able-bodied, white, European, middle/upper-class, male composer image that remains so dominant in the North American and European new music worlds, the more likely their works are to be overlooked. The more we recognize the impact of even seemingly small decisions about what to program, who to commission, and who to recognize, the more we can work to change things.

So, yes, here I am, and here we are, being patient. I’m not going away! But no, I will not be patient about having to be patient!


Notes:


1. I won’t say here how I feel about my own career, but if you’re curious, you can read this interview on pianist Frances Wilson’s fabulous blog Meet the Artist.


2. One can argue that women composers should be represented in proportion to the percentage of women who are (known to be) composers in a given place or time or period, or that music by women should always be 50%, or somewhere in between, but that lies outside the scope of this article. I think we can all agree that equitable programming would, at a minimum, include works by women in the same proportion as composers who are women, so I’ll stick to those figures for the purposes of this article.


3. I counted up the number of women composition professors in the first 20 Canadian music departments that came to mind. It’s possible the percentage is a bit higher or lower, but I doubt it’s off by more than a point to two.

Composing and Motherhood

When I started composing, as an 18 year old in 1990, I knew of few women composers. Those I did know of either had their careers curtailed when they had kids (Clara Schumann, Alma Mahler, Ruth Crawford Seeger), or they didn’t have kids (Pauline Oliveros, Meredith Monk, and the few women composers I knew personally). I thought I might want to have kids one day, and it was scary going into a field in which I knew no role models. But I needed to compose, and any possible kids were a long way off. Certainly I encountered occasional sexism as a student and young composer, but mostly I received great encouragement. My way of participating in the new music world was no different from that of my male contemporaries. I studied,[1] I went to music festivals, I lived abroad, I went to artist residencies, and most of all, I went to lots of concerts, met people, and talked about music late into the night, hatching plans for new musical projects and adventures. It’s 2017 and I’m now a mother myself (kids born in 2012 and 2015), and though my commitment to composing is as strong as ever, I’m starting to understand some of the ways that composers who are mothers intentionally and unintentionally get written out of new music.

Though not all women become mothers, all women may find themselves affected by anti-mother bias.

Though not all women become mothers, all women may find themselves affected by anti-mother bias. It’s still shockingly common to hear of women composers being passed over for positions because it is assumed that they’ll get married, have kids, and give up composing, or of mentors refusing to write letters of recommendation for female students until they know their reproductive plans. The difficulties associated with being a composer and a mother are, of course, compounded once children actually come into the picture! Finding enough time to compose while earning enough to pay for childcare—in such an underpaid field as composition—is impossible for many, and grants seldom come with funding for childcare. (I just applied for a grant in which the maximum allowable monthly subsistence rate is 30% less than we pay our babysitter per month.) Attending evening concerts—so important, both for musical nourishment and for networking—is difficult, and new music concerts are even more likely than others to start late at night. Residencies are often offered in increments of one month, a prohibitively long period of time for most mothers of young children. Of course these pressures affect parents of all genders, but mothers are more likely to need to remain in physical proximity to their child because of breastfeeding, more likely to be the primary caregiver, and more likely to feel cultural pressure, both internalized and external, to not be away from their kids.[2],[3]

A few years away from concerts and residencies might not be a problem if the new music world weren’t so focused on “young composers.”[4] Though young composer support schemes were initially developed to allow new voices to be heard, they have now become the norm, making it harder for older composers who are not already well-established to find a way in. The focus on young composers comes with an attendant assumption that if someone hasn’t “made it” by 35, they never will (despite the existence of such well-regarded late-blooming composers as Rameau, Scarlatti, Janáček, and Scelsi). Women who have kids in their late 20s or early 30s may miss out on the key years for participating in young composer programs, only to find that just as the kids are old enough for them to participate more fully, they are excluded on the basis of age.[5] Yet having children older doesn’t necessarily help either. The late 30s and early 40s are a notoriously difficult time for all composers – “young composer” support has dried up, while one isn’t yet considered an “established composer.”[6] Without kids, navigating this period can be difficult and require a renewed focus on developing ones career; with kids, the obstacles may seem insurmountable.

Women who have kids in their late 20s or early 30s may miss out on the key years for participating in young composer programs.

Even when there aren’t explicit age limits, the conditions of grants, calls for scores, and awards often make it hard to return to active composition after a period of slowed productivity. I recently found myself unable to apply for a grant because it required a piece relevant to my project proposal that I had written in the past two years. In the past few years I’ve finished a 45-minute chamber opera, a violin concerto, two chamber pieces, a scientific paper, a book chapter, taught both privately and at a college, started a new research position, and had a baby (in addition to parenting a preschooler), so I haven’t been lazy—but no, I don’t have a choral piece. There’s no inherent reason composers who are most continuously prolific should be considered most worthy. We recognize the importance of Varèse, Webern, and Ustvolskaya, whose output was small, and of Crawford Seeger, Knussen, and Donatoni, who had years when they didn’t compose. Yet composers who are steadily productive are most likely to receive grants and support.

On top of these structural problems, there’s the general tendency to dismiss moms as culturally irrelevant. “Mom jeans” are the quintessential anti-fashion, and The New York Times recently told us we should be worrying about “mom hair” too.[7] “Soccer moms” represent suburban blandness. “Explain it so your mom would understand” suggests moms are slow-witted. “Mom-approved” is safe, dull, and smug. “Even your mom would like it” describes inoffensive and insipid art. These comments are said jokingly (even by moms themselves), but hearing this language over and over again predisposes us to think of cultural contributions by mothers to be unimportant. Perhaps it’s worse than unimportant: the underlying message is that “mom” stands in direct opposition to art that is incisive, interesting, and meaningful.

There’s no inherent reason composers who are most continuously prolific should be considered most worthy.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are lots of steps we can all take so that motherhood doesn’t become a barrier to active participation in the new music world. In visual arts, writing, and theater, there are already some great initiatives to be more inclusive of mothers (and of parents generally),[8] but in composition we are farther behind, perhaps because women are already such a minority, and our position can feel so precarious. Here I propose a number of measures that can be taken in order to be more inclusive. Some are easy to incorporate, others more complex. Not all are practical for every situation, but it is not necessary that everything be done in the same way, or even that every event or opportunity be mother-friendly. We simply need a variety of ways to engage with the new music world that reflects the diversity of people interested in creating, performing, and listening to new music.

MOTHER by EngTay (a woman seated at a piano playing music and being hugged by her child.) Image by Beth Scupham

MOTHER by EngTay. Image by Beth Scupham via Flickr

If you present concerts, consider:

• Having some daytime new music concerts – not just greatest-hits programming, but with the same programs as evening concerts.
• Performing programs in both a standard, quiet concert context, and in a more noise- and wiggle-friendly context.
• Providing childcare.
• Having concerts in explicitly family-friendly locations, with conveniences such as change tables in the washrooms, “breastfeeding welcome” signs, and an area where someone could entertain children outside of the concert space.
• Performing in non-traditional venues which are more accessible to families.
• Including the timing of pieces in the program, so audience members can choose to come in or leave for one piece.
• Letting people know which concerts they could bring a baby to and stand at the back and leave if the baby starts to fuss, vs. which concerts would be disrupted if someone stepped out. (Perhaps there could be a child-friendly rating system?)
• Having intermissions long enough to feed a baby or pump milk
• Letting the audience know when the intermission will be in case someone needs to arrange to have a baby brought to them at a specific time.
• Having post-concert dinners and receptions in baby-friendly locations (e.g. in pubs or restaurants that allow children).
• Making the dress rehearsal like a performance, and open to families.
• Reserving seats in the back, the balcony, or boxes for people who may need to step in and out.

If you organize residencies, consider:

• Allowing people to attend residencies for shorter periods of time – perhaps in one week increments, or even for just a few days at a time.
• Allowing the possibility of coming back for several short residency periods rather than one long one.
• Allowing families to stay at residencies.
• Providing childcare. This could be provided on-site, or perhaps the residency could team up with nearby summer camps.
• Providing stipends for babysitters, either at the residency, or to help with the costs of leaving children at home with other family members or friends.
• Reserving some spots specifically for people who are using the residency to refocus on their work after some time away.

If you run a funding organization or hold a call for scores, consider:

• Not seeing gaps in a resume as an inherent negative, and/or giving people the opportunity to account for gaps.
• Eliminating age restrictions. (Experience restrictions – e.g. limiting a grant/award/performance to someone who is still studying, or hasn’t had any performances by major ensembles – can be a more equitable way of allowing new voices to be heard.)
• Searching for under-heard voices, including but not limited to young voices.
• Giving grants specifically to people who are returning to composing after a gap. (Re-emerging composer awards?)
• Eliminating or lengthening time limits for the composition dates of pieces, or giving the applicant the opportunity to explain if they don’t have a relevant piece that has been composed recently enough.
• Including stipends to pay for babysitters as an eligible expense. (Ideally these should be granted once the award is already decided, so the additional expense is not held against the applicant).
• Accepting high-quality computer generated sound files, since returning composers may not have access to good performances.
• Explicitly recognizing the need for support after gaps, rather than consciously or unconsciously writing off composers who have taken time away.

All of us in the new music community, consider:

• Asking parents of all genders about their work AND about their children. (Don’t just ask men about their work, and just ask women about their children. This still happens way too often!)
• Continuing to invite your parent friends to do things – to attend concerts, to write pieces. Let them tell you if now isn’t the right time – they’ll appreciate being asked!
• Writing pieces that can accommodate audiences which include families.
• Asking about (and creating) provisions for children and families, whether or not you are a mother (or even a parent). Especially in fields which are still male dominated, like composition, it would be nice if the people with more social power were advocating for change in the direction of family-friendliness!
• Lobbying for increased support for parents, including paid maternity leave and subsidized high-quality childcare.
• Lobbying for fair pay for artists.

Even if these changes would only help mothers, that would be reason enough to make them. But in fact they will help many participate more actively in the new music world: fathers, caregivers of all sorts, composers who have taken time out for any reason, and composers with any sort of non-traditional career trajectory. Even composers with a more traditional trajectory may appreciate having more options for how they can participate in new music, without feeling like if they take some time off or try something differently they will lose their career. Some of these ideas may even help the music itself, as we come up with new solutions and find ways to facilitate the expression of new kinds of voices and ideas.

More than any specific structural change we can make, however, I’d suggest that the most important thing we can do is move away from seeing motherhood as something inherently “negative for” or “in competition with” the creation of music. The difficulties are obvious: increased time pressure, lack of sleep, fragmented concentration, added expense. But parenthood also offers an amazing chance for a change of perspective, the development of new skills, and a refocusing on what is most important.

Can the selflessness developed during late nights with sleepless babies help us put self aside as we follow our music in unexpected directions? Might learning to trust in the process even when the immediate results are unclear—as we do when gently modeling behavior we want but don’t yet see in our toddlers—help us trust the process in writing music at the boundaries of what we can imagine? Do the communication skills learned in speaking gently, patiently, and lovingly with our kids (even when we’re feeling the exact opposite) help in difficult rehearsal situations? Can time away be seen as offering a valuable change of perspective, rather than only as a distraction or obstacle to composition? Can increased demands on our time encourage us to prioritize, and make room for the projects that are most important to us? If we decide to create child-friendly art, could the limitations imposed by trying to make music that is impervious to interruptions or that takes place in flexible child-friendly venues open our minds to new kinds of musical ideas? Might struggling to maintain the place of music in our lives lead us to value it even more?

There are as many ways of being a composer as there are people committed to the world of new music.

Of course I don’t mean to suggest that one needs to be a mother (or parent) to experience growth and development as a composer! But I do suggest that there are as many ways of being a composer as there are people committed to the world of new music. Let’s value the many, varied paths people follow, and instead of intentionally or unintentionally keeping people out, think of how we can make room for all who want to contribute.[9]



1. This was back in the day when tuition was cheap and scholarships were more widely available: I know that even this step is unavailable to many now.

2. Ellen McSweeney has also written about these difficulties from a performer’s perspective.

3. Of course, not all birth-giving parents identify as women or mothers, not all mothers have given birth, not all birth-giving mothers breastfeed, and not all primary caregivers are mothers or women. But I do think there is a specific way that the challenges of being a female composer in a still male-dominated field interact with the challenges of being a parent and an artist. I write from my own experience, but recognize that there are many other ways that being a composer and becoming a parent may interact.

4. See Bill Doerrfeld, “Ageism in Composer Opportunities” (NewMusicBox, published June 5, 2013).

5. Mothers aren’t the only composers negatively affected by age limits. A removal of age limits would help anyone with a less traditional trajectory.

6. Aaron Gervais has some great reflections on making the transition out of being a young composer.

7. See Bee Shapiro, “Have ‘Mom Hair’? Here’s How to Fix It” (The New York Times, published June 21, 2016).

8. Parents in the Performing Arts and The Sustainable Arts Foundation are two such initiatives.

9. The author would like to thank Kala Pierson for discussions which led to this article


Emily Doolittle

Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, composer Emily Doolittle was educated at Dalhousie University, Indiana University, the Koninklijk Conservatorium, and Princeton. From 2008-2015 she was on the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. She now lives in Glasgow, Scotland, where she is an Athenaeum Research Fellow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Doolittle has been commissioned by such ensembles as Orchestre Métropolitain, Tafelmusik, Symphony Nova Scotia, the Paragon Ensemble, and Ensemble Contemporain de Montreal, and supported by the Sorel Organization, the Hinrichsen Foundation, Opera America, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Fulbright Foundation, among others. Her chamber music CD all spring was released on the Naxos distributed Composers Concordance Label in 2015.