Category: Columns

#ToTheGirls from The Most Powerful People in New Music

It is much more important who the singing master at Kisvarda (small village) is than who the director of the Opera House is, because a poor director will fail.  (Often even a good one.)  But a bad teacher may kill off the love of music for thirty years from thirty classes of pupils—Zoltan Kodaly, 1929

What are you doing with your power as a teacher?

Before some of you click away from this article, dismissing the notion of yourself as a teacher, consider this: Do you teach lessons in your home, or through a studio collective? Do you teach music theory and music history or composition seminars? Maybe you do the odd masterclass as a guest artist. Perhaps you get commissions to write for children’s choirs or you sing Carmenella in a traveling production. DO you slog through research and test data in the district where you teach or live to prove that it’s important that kids get reading intervention AND music? Maybe you don’t consider yourself to be a music professional at all, but because you are curious and excited, you listen and you tell others, “Hey, you should listen to this cool new thing!”

If you nodded your head to any or all of these, you are teaching. You are more powerful than any hiring committee. You are more powerful than the symphony board or arts commission or endowment. You have the power to enact far-reaching positive change on multitudes. You are a teacher.

Let me return to my original question: What are you doing with your power as a teacher?

The sea change that is needed in the music world to balance gender inequities must begin from and be reinforced through our music educators.

The sea change that is needed in the music world to balance gender inequities must begin from and be reinforced through our music educators.

I have been a music educator in various capacities for more than 15 years. I have done all of the jobs I listed above. In addition to being a music educator, I am a composer. I am also the president of the International Alliance for Women in Music. The IAWM exists for the sole purpose of promoting the interests of women in music. Originally founded as a collective of composers, our membership is far wider, encompassing researchers, performers, conductors, critics, and—of course—educators.

Hooray to the women’s choirs! Bravi to the ten-member trombone section with nine girls! Now I ask the directors: What are you playing this season? I ask the theory teachers: What scores are you studying this week? I ask the general music teachers: What are you listening to today? I ask the aficionados: What’s coming through the earbuds today? I hear the same names. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised to hear about a living composer. I am ecstatic and slightly shocked if I hear any of these teachers mention a female composer.

The IAWM exists for the sole purpose of promoting the interests of women in music.

In this battle of assuring lawmakers and policy enforcers and testmongers that the arts are a truly essential part of every student’s experience, we still must find ways and opportunities to teach our students and the public at large that music is not old, white, dead, and male. To ensure that music is and remains relevant to our students and our general education, we must be inclusive of gender in our classrooms, studios, and conversations about music. This issue, this problem of relevancy, should be every bit as important as the fattest prize, the latest commission, or the most admired new gadget.

Often a single experience will open the young soul to music for a whole lifetime.  This experience cannot be left to chance; it is the duty of the school to provide it—Kodaly, 1957

In Song in The Heads: Music and Its Meaning in Children’s Lives (2nd edition, 2010), author Patricia Shehan Campbell recounts numerous interviews with children about their musical experience. The interviews reflect students receiving a broad range of music education: traditional Orff/Kodaly/Dalcroze-based methods at school, Suzuki or other private training, and wonderful family influences, which include traditional musics from multiple continents, popular genres, Western classical music, and their own compositions. One common thread these histories all share, though, is a lack of dialogue about female composers. There are female performing artists from popular genres mentioned, notably Whitney Houston, Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé, and Fergie. These women are mentioned as performers, but never as writers or composers. In the classical field, we only hear children mention Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach.

During those most formative years in a student’s musical education, in elementary school, most of the music instruction is by women.

What’s funny/disturbing/confusing/disheartening in the mix of this is that during those most formative years in a student’s musical education, in elementary school, most of the music instruction is by women. A 2015 analysis of music teachers in the U.S.A. ( shows that around 74% of K-8 general music teachers are women (the number climbs to 78% when looking at only elementary grades). Why are these teachers, who are mostly women, not promoting the works of women alongside the typical canon?

One cause may be found in the K-12 classrooms themselves. Most teachers must rely on what is offered by a limited number of education supply sources when decorating their teaching space, selecting music for a festival, or choosing listening examples. This bottleneck allows very little new and fresh material into the classroom, resulting in practically no ready-to-use resources featuring women in music.

Would you like to hang portraits of great composers of the Western tradition? Here are 40 of them. They’re all dead/white/male, by the way. Or, here’s a nice timeline that’s a bit more diverse. Glad to see Bessie and Ella made the cut. I’m not knocking them by any means, but I do think there should be room for more than two female names.

In addition to participating in great oral traditions of folk songs and dances, students may begin to listen to great works. Here is a package deal geared toward the classroom teacher, offering the “greatest hits.”

It’s a little, well… sad. Correction: It’s maddening. There’s no new music, not a single female composer, not a single composer of color.

It takes some digging to find this supplement. It’s a fine product, but it’s the only one. As a female composer, it is frustrating to find many of my role models set aside in an “other” category. Ruth Crawford Seeger should be listed alongside Berg and Messiaen; Fanny and Clara should be alongside Felix and Robert; Barbara Strozzi should be a recognized heir of Claudio Monteverdi. None of these should be shuffled off into an “also rans,” because the message it communicates to students is that women aren’t equipped to be great composers.

What about those concert selections? Looking for a unison or two-part choral piece yields 55 selections noted as “Editor’s Choice” in the J.W. Pepper catalog, of which 20 are arrangements or original compositions by women. 14/50 for SAB concert selections, 13/85 for SATB. If you are looking for band works, the website recommends a “basic library” list of 363 works, which includes five works by two women. Looking for a concert opener? The Editor’s Choice list of 96 suggestions doesn’t include a single piece written by a woman. In fact, the entire Editor’s Choice list of 1680 works for concert and contest band music only includes 16 works by women composers or arrangers.

The second probable cause lies in the curricula of the music education major itself. In the USA, changes in tests such as the Praxis series reflect the expectations that music teachers possess knowledge of music technology and world music. These are appropriate and needed changes. However, diversity in education is not limited to making sure students have exposure to non-Western music. It is equally important that students have the chance to absorb the concepts of gender inclusivity in music classes.

Our most popular textbooks for core classes in the music major include relatively few references to women composers.

Unfortunately, our most popular textbooks for core classes in the music major include relatively few references to women composers. Though there are recent gains in some music history textbooks, most music theory textbooks remain behind the curve in gender inclusivity. Researchers and educators such as Roberta Lamb, Rosemary Killam, and others have been questioning the paucity of women composers in our music curricula for decades. The presence of women composers is noted in music histories more frequently now, but the absence of their works in music theory topics undermines the thought that music written by women is worth studying. Many outside resources have been published in anthologies, on dedicated websites, and in blogs, but few have actually made it into the standard textbooks and curriculum packages.

And I would advise my young colleagues, the composers of symphonies, to drop in sometimes at the kindergarten, too.  It is there that it is decided whether there will be anybody to understand their works in twenty years’ time.—Kodaly, 1957

At the beginning of 2018, the IAWM welcomed six newly elected members onto our board of directors. As with any great change, people brought ideas for new areas of advocacy and new projects emerged. One new focus of our organization is to aid educators through more explicit efforts to supplement curricula. A new grant initiative was proposed and a pilot grant will be announced later this year. This grant is specifically to help teachers who bring women in music into the classroom, whether by purchasing new classroom materials that include women composers, helping to commission a new work by a woman, or bringing in a guest artist.

As president of IAWM, I envision a second, more extensive set of projects that includes advocating not just for women already in music, but for all students of music who desperately need to see, hear, and experience music written and performed by women, not just taught by women. These will include resolutions and recommendations to NASM and NAfME on gender diversity in music curricula, more extensive resource listings on our own website, and documents such as lesson plans, long-range planning guides, and syllabi to bridge the gap between current textbook offerings and the research available on women in music. The last piece will be lobbying publishers for greater exposure of works by women.

You’re a teacher with enormous power to effect change.

So, you’re a teacher with enormous power to effect change. You want all of your students to feel that.  What do you do?

1. Actively seek out music by women composers. There is plenty of it out there, trust me. The 20th and 21st centuries have produced much wonderfully juicy low-hanging fruit by female composers. Pluck some.

2. Bring a score, pull up a recording, assign research. Actively studying the music acknowledges the worth of someone’s work. Simply mentioning a female musician’s name as “someone in the same school as X” is not creating gender diversity in your curriculum.

3. When teaching or reading, don’t assume that women composers were or are lagging behind the men. Just as often, we’re ahead of them, but don’t receive the credit.

4. Commission works by female composers. If you think you don’t have the budget to do this, form a consortium.

5. Have masterclasses with female musicians, or Skype interviews with researchers, performers, and other music professionals who are women.

6. Create and model more equitable opportunities for networking among your students.

7. Write to your local curriculum coordinator and/or standards writers and explain that they need to include gender diversity as a required component of K-12 music curricula, so that teachers have explicit guidance on the issue.

8. Think about the music teachers of your past. Just out of curiosity, how many of them were women? Find them, and write them a note to thank them.

For Summer Rain

In March 2015, I arrived in Beijing for what started as a six-month stint and then sprawled into a year. I had come to study with Chinese composer Gao Weijie 高为杰 at the China Conservatory of Music 中国音乐学院, an institution whose primary focus is the study, protection, and promotion of Chinese folk music and traditional Chinese instruments. It was an immersive experience, and one which changed my life.

I have been living on and off in China since this time, while continuing to focus much of my compositional work around Chinese instruments. This series shares four different interpretations of and perspectives on exchange through my experiences and observations as a composer.


My interest in Chinese music developed after experiencing a concert of new works for traditional Chinese instruments while studying in Cincinnati in late 2013. I was taken aback not so much by the pieces on that particular program, but by the possibilities the instruments presented — a thought which was coupled with the sudden realization that my exposure to music up until that point had been limited to the canons of jazz, classical, and contemporary music.

I went on to spend several weeks in the summer of 2014 in Taiwan to study Chinese music on a research grant from the University of Cincinnati. In observing rehearsals, conversing with instrumentalists, and attending concerts (including a festival for Nanguan, also called Nanyin 南音), it became clear that this work would require sincere investment over a longer timespan if it were to result in musical understanding.

That I am still here is a testament to the supportive relationships that have formed along the way, as much as it is due to the magic of Chinese music.

My teacher at the time, Joel Hoffman, encouraged me greatly as I considered the possibility for further study in China. My initial goals were to research and write for Chinese instruments, to experience the Chinese approach to teaching composition, and to learn from a country which remains too-frequently misunderstood by the rest of the world. That I am still here is a testament to the supportive relationships with performers, friends, and mentors that have formed along the way, as much as it is due to the magic of Chinese music and a lingering feeling that I am only at the start.

New Music for Pipa

Xia Yuyan 夏雨言 is a virtuoso performer of pipa 琵琶, a Chinese plucked string instrument. She was born in 1991 in Jiang Yin City, Jiangsu province and came to Beijing alone at age eleven to pursue advanced study with a major teacher. Our professors introduced us shortly after my arrival in Beijing, and we began what has become an ongoing three-year project of composing, performing, and recording new works for pipa.

What Yuyan found elegant, I found cliché; what I found elegant, she found incomprehensible.

The collaborative process for my first piece proved to be quite difficult from the onset. What Yuyan found elegant, I found cliché; what I found elegant, she found incomprehensible. While performers I had worked with previously were largely deferential to my ideas, Yuyan took no hesitation in telling me what to trash and that I simply had to do better. We met week after week one-on-one, and I became a bit of a pipa roadie, attending every rehearsal and concert she gave within a six-month span. Frustration eventually gave way to friendship, with us learning when to stand up for ourselves and when to trust one another. The answers lay somewhere in the space in between — not in an “East-West” fusion sense, but in the symbiotic give and take between our aesthetic ideals and the resulting sounds.

This first piece was For Summer Rain; the title is a translation of part of her name rather than being obliquely programmatic. (There is always the question of audience with new music, but for this work, my first audience was Yuyan). It was premiered in October 2015 in Beijing.

A trio for Malaysian yangqin performer Jia Wei Ng, American saxophonist Jason Pockrus, and Yuyan followed. I touched the ground while floating away was premiered the following spring in Beijing.

Our most recent collaboration — a work for solo pipa with voice (琵琶弹唱) named 空 (kōng), or Void — was finished this past March, and then presented in two lecture recitals at Tsinghua (清华大学) and Shandong Universities (山东大学哲学系) before Yuyan’s premiere of the work at the 21st CHIME (Chinese Music in Europe) Conference in Lisbon this past May.

The chance to present lecture recitals together was a welcome opportunity to share our musical exchange on a broader scale with audiences who had little exposure to Chinese instruments. Articulating in our respective second languages what our collaborations have entailed was a daunting experience for each of us. But in Yuyan’s view, the best way to embrace both life and working together is shunqi ziran 顺其自然: to go with the flow.

With an instrument of such rich capabilities, perhaps the only limitations are the ones the composer self-imposes.

While matters of technical understanding towards an instrument become easier with time, there is still much to learn about pipa as well as from one another. With an instrument of such rich capabilities, perhaps the only limitations are the ones the composer self-imposes.

Interdisciplinary Collaborations

My work with Yuyan represents but a sliver of her interests and activities as an artist. Plenty of performers are technically proficient, but her individualistic spirit and expressive range are a rare combination. These traits have led Yuyan to branch out far past what might be considered “traditional pipa performance”.

While we were rehearsing For Summer Rain, Yuyan introduced me to Jiang Shaofeng 姜少峰 (b. 1987), a Chinese dancer who has fallen in love with American tap dance. For the past several years, they have been creating works blending pipa, dance, and percussion. One example of this collaboration can be heard in a composition of Yuyan’s called Encounter:

Their duo of pipa and tap dance morphed into a multi-media performance group called No.Future between 2016 and 2017. Comprised of pipa (Xia Yuyan 夏雨言), dance (Jiang Shaofeng 姜少峰), beatbox (Gu Hong Long 贾宏龙), and voice/keyboard (Pei Ying Yan 裴颖妍), the ensemble performed in various venues around Beijing. Yet, as Yuyan pointed out, it can be difficult for independent artists in China to stay together in groups long term without sponsorship or the support of agents.

Photo of No.Future in performance, provided by Xia Yuyan.

Photo of No.Future in performance, provided by Xia Yuyan 夏雨言.

Other projects Yuyan has been involved with include improvisational workshops with modern dancers in Sichuan Province in August 2017 and a series of collaborative performances with Shaofeng and artist Luan Jiaqi 栾佳齐. Through amplifying Yuyan’s instrument and the board upon which Shaofeng dances while simultaneously placing an amplifier beneath a canvas, Luan creates artistic conditions in which paint can catch the paths of the vibrations they produce.

Xia Yuyan talking with Luan Jiaqi in front of a circular table.

Photo of Xia Yuyan 夏雨言 with artist Luan Jiaqi 栾佳齐, provided by Xia Yuyan 夏雨言.

As Yuyan stated, “My current belief since leaving conservatory is that life is not only about music. Moreover, it is not merely a matter of practicing one’s instrument. The most important thing is how one thinks, how one feels — towards life, or towards one’s inner states. And then you must decide the artistic way in which you want to express yourself. So this is why I am so interested in photography or painting: I feel that all artistic media contain their own music.”

“All artistic media contain their own music.”

On Exchange

“Without exchange there is no understanding” (没有交流,没有理解) — Gao Weijie 高为杰

I am not interested in pursuing a direct transfer or imitation of media from Chinese to Western music or vice versa. Rather, what the process of writing for Chinese instrumentalists— and particularly for Yuyan — has done is to expand my conception of sound and timbre, leading me to write music that looks carefully at the nature and acoustics of any given instrument in order to build a delicate palette exploring texture, color, and forms of release. In moving back and forth between projects for Chinese and Western instruments, it is the dialogue, the push and pull, the constant shifting of the ground beneath one’s feet that challenges and excites me as a composer.

I am not interested in pursuing a direct transfer or imitation of media from Chinese to Western music or vice versa.

Yuyan too has been impacted. As she put it, “Our collaboration has opened me up to a new form of musical expression. Working with Rachel has allowed me to grasp that silence is also a type of musical language.”

Xia Yuyan holding a pipa in March 2018. Photo by Rachel C. Walker.

Yuyan after a rehearsal of 空 kong in March 2018. Photo by the author.

When Yuyan and I began our collaboration in March 2015, she joked — and in hindsight, it seems she was serious— that once I discovered pipa, I would not be able to turn my back upon it. We were not friends immediately, and I am not sure that either of us imagined that we would still be working together now, but some of the most beautiful moments of my life have been spent in her apartment, listening to the sway of the Chinese lute.

Widening Inclusion & Visibility

Ed note: There have been a number of recent changes at the International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM), including several new awards programs, which have been spearheaded by a group of highly energized newly elected group of board members. This month we’ve asked several of these board members to access the current new music landscape and to describe how they see IAWM helping to change the ecology for the better.-FJO

During the biting cold of the January 2018 blizzard in New York, I was attending the Chamber Music America conference. After the day’s sessions, I ducked into a restaurant on 37th Street for dinner. A trio was performing some great jazz – a blend of standards and original music. Startlingly, the trio was all female. A string trio comprised of women is no longer unusual enough to even register in my consciousness. Yet for as much as I wish it wasn’t, a jazz trio of women still is. As an alum from the University of North Texas, and a board member of the International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM), the lack of visibility of women in jazz is noteworthy, especially when it comes to composers. Is it more an issue of visibility than activity?

Many of us are aware of the statistic published by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; only 1.8 percent of the music performed by America’s 22 leading orchestras during the 2014-2015 season was composed by women. Are the numbers of women composers proportionately that small, or is their music merely not being programmed? A similar study of 85 American orchestras (that was reported on by Lucy Caplan in the Winter 2018 issue of Symphony magazine) reveals that living composers represented only 12.3% of programming in the 2016-17 season, so the limited real estate for music by pre-21st-century composers certainly contributes the to the low statistic. But that’s another article.

Meanwhile, over at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, a couple of composers were musing, perhaps steaming, about the lack of women composers played by wind bands. In January, composer Katherine Bergman, wrote:

Of the 500 pieces performed at the Midwest Clinic by 51 different ensembles (including   bands, orchestras, jazz bands, and chamber groups), only 23 pieces (4.6%) were composed by women, and just 71 (14.2%) were written by composers of color. But what about the band concerts on their own? With such enthusiasm for new music, surely the wind ensemble programming would be more diverse than that of the orchestras, right?   Alas, of the 212 pieces performed by bands during the Midwest Clinic, only seven (a measly 3.3%) were written by women, and 26 (12.3%) by people of color.

I observed this myself! In March, I attended the College Band Directors National Association’s (CBDNA) West & Northwest conference at Sonoma State University. Out of 47 pieces of music performed, only one piece was composed by a woman. So are women not just composing for wind band, or is the music by women composers just not getting programmed?

Organizations such as the League of American Orchestras, Chamber Music America, and Opera America are putting more attention on women composers as well as composers of color through their granting opportunities.

Rob Deemer announced in January that the Women Composers Database, which he began embarking on in 2016, “was fully operational and ready for public inspection.” He and “a team of students at the State University of New York at Fredonia had compiled a searchable and browsable database of more than 3,000 women composers” for conductors, performers, educators, and researchers to use. The document lists THREE THOUSAND women composers. As Midgette mentions in her Washington Post article, organizations such as the League of American Orchestras, Chamber Music America, and Opera America are putting more attention on women composers as well as composers of color through their granting opportunities.

The mission of the International Alliance for Women in Music is to foster and encourage the activities of women in music, particularly in the areas of performing, composing, and research in which gender discrimination continues to be a concern. So IAWM further explored the landscape of major awards recognizing the prowess of women composers.

Since Joan Tower’s win of the Grawemeyer Award in 1990, only two other women: Kaija Saariaho and Unsuk Chin, have received it. The Rome Prize, first awarded in 1924, is given most but not every year. Typically each year, two composers are awarded the prize which includes a year-long residency at the American Academy in Rome. Barbara Kolb was the first woman awarded the prize in 1971 and she received it again in 1976. During the remainder of the 20th century, an additional seven women were awarded: Sheila Silver in 1979; Kathryn Alexander and Michelle Ekizian in 1989; Ellen Taaffe Zwilich in 1990; Bun-Ching Lam in 1992; Tania León in 1998; and Betsy Jolas in 1999. Since the 21st century, women have fared significantly better; a total of nine women have received this honor: Shih-Hui Chen and Carolyn Yarnell in 2000; Susan Botti in 2006; Erin Gee in 2008; Nina Young in 2015; and, in the past two years all four recipients have been women—Suzanne Farrin and Ashley Fure in 2017 and Michelle Lou and Jessie Marino in 2018. The Nemmers Prize in Music Composition began recognizing and honoring classical music composers of outstanding achievement in a body of work and a unique creativity in 2004. Of the eight recipients thus far, two have been women: Kaija Saariaho was the first, in 2008, and this year’s recipient was Jennifer Higdon.

Women have fared better with other prizes. The Pulitzer Prize, which Ellen Taaffe Zwilich won to much fanfare in 1983, has been awarded to seven women, four in the last decade, most recently to Du Yun in 2017. Representation of Women receiving American Academy Arts & Letters’ awards, founded at the turn of the 20th century to honor the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers, has been historically greater than other awards – 12.6% up through 1999, and 15.5% from 2000-2017. So the 21st century figures bear out a slow but growing trend toward rewarding women. Noted though that in 2017 and 2018, women were awarded 31% and 20% respectively. The American Composers Forum supports an eclectic mix of awards that recognizes diverse composers from around the country.

I’ve only recently been aware of the Herb Alpert Award, presented annually since 1995 to “risk-taking mid-career artists” working in several fields of art.  Of the 24 awards presented in music, 46% were awarded to 11 diverse women, pushing musical boundaries. The foundation also supports Young Jazz Composer Awards for jazz composers under 30. Out of the 15 annual winners, one in 2018 and four in 2017 were young women.

Do fellowships skew differently regarding gender? The Guggenheim Memorial Foundation began offering Fellowships in 1925, “to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and irrespective of race, color, or creed.” During its initial 74 years, 568 Fellowships were awarded for Musical Composition, 39 (6.9%) to women. Since 2000, the percentage of women represented has increased over time. The Guggenheim has given 257 Fellowships with 55 (21.4%) to women.

The MacArthur Fellows Program, often called the genius grant is “intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations”. One must be nominated through an ever-changing of pool of appointed external nominators chosen from a wide range of fields. Only 42 people in the musician/composer category have been awarded; 10 have been women.

In jazz, gender bias seems to be more of a well-known secret. Erin Wehr, who has conducted extensive research in gender and jazz, recently wrote: “The reality is that negative stereotypes of women still persist in jazz today. Even if such biases are a minority, negativity is so powerful that even great amounts of positive social support often can’t take away the sting of one pointed, judgmental comment.” Chamber Music America has given out awards for New Jazz Works since 2000. Out of 362 awards, 14 (3.9%) have been awarded to women.

IAWM’s commitment to providing visibility to women composers has moved like-minded sponsors to support awards for the annual Search for New Music. These prizes for new music by women are offered in a number of categories ranging from chamber works to sound installations. Through a competitive call for works, with a theme that changes annually, IAWM also presents a concert of new works by living women composers. In 2017, ACF honored the IAWM as one of its three 2017 Champion of New Music Awards. The IAWM also sponsors the Pauline Alderman Awards for musicological and journalistic works on women in music, most recently for Denise von Glahn’s book, Music and the Skillful Listener. But it’s not enough. How can we do better? How can we broaden our scope to increase the visibility of the vast amount of music composed by women? At least THREE THOUSAND OF THEM.

How can we broaden our scope to increase the visibility of the vast amount of music composed by women? At least THREE THOUSAND OF THEM.

The IAWM board has acknowledged that significant numbers of women in other areas of music are equally lacking visibility, and we are seeking to become more inclusive. Following New Music USA’s lead, IAWM published its Statement of Equity and Inclusion in 2017. In addition to social equity, IAWM seeks to ensure that the organization welcomes women across genres and disciplines, by being explicit in our commitment to promote cultural and professional musical diversity and inclusion within our board and membership. Women in Music work as performers, composers, arrangers, media artists, conductors, theorists, producers, musicologists, historians and educators. We know that a diversity of ideas, approaches, disciplines and musical styles are essential to inclusion and equity.

In analyzing our membership and the musical landscape, the IAWM board realized that we needed to expand our support networks and increase our relevance in the field. We are ramping up our advocacy efforts and our commitment to providing visibility to women writing in various genres of music, as well as to provide recognizing of our members working as performers and educators and in other areas of music.

In October 2017, the IAWM Board voted to create two new composition awards, for jazz and wind band, which rolled out this spring with a deadline of April 30. Sponsored by a consortium of jazz musicians in Portland, Oregon, the PDX Jazz Prize is a competitive award of $300 for women jazz composers for pieces of any duration from small ensembles to big band. The Alex Shapiro Wind Band Prize, which includes a $500 cash award and mentorship/consultation from Alex Shapiro, is for works of any duration for large ensemble wind band requiring a conductor, with or without a soloist, acoustic or electroacoustic, published or as yet unpublished. IAWM will soon be rolling out a Performer award, and an Education grant targeting K-12 music educators. As the membership of IAWM is becoming more diverse, so will our awards.

As the membership of IAWM is becoming more diverse, so will our awards.

An example of progressive change is occurring in the UK. The PRS Foundation announced its new Keychange Initiative earlier this year, which, as Amanda Cook reported in I CARE IF YOU LISTEN, is “empowering women to transform the future of the music industry and encouraging festivals to achieve a 50:50 balance by 2022. While a number of contemporary music festivals have committed to this initiative, the Borealis Festival has already achieved gender-balanced programming.”

Women are working in all genres of music, from chamber to choral to jazz; from orchestra to wind band to film and media. The International Alliance for Women in Music is working to bring awareness and visibility to music that is under-represented in the musical landscape.

Back to that restaurant on East 37th Street: inspired by their wonderful performance and intrigued by works I’d not heard before, I introduced myself and told them about the International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) and the new award for women jazz composers. I hope they and many more apply. Unbeknownst to them, they made my night a memorable evening.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like: Music Advocacy on Capitol Hill

It’s not an easy time to be a musician in America. When President Trump announced his budget proposal for 2019 back in February, cultural leaders were disheartened to find that the plan calls for the elimination of various funding sources for artistic institutions. Among those on the chopping block are programs which provide food, housing, and healthcare to underserved populations. In the midst of a tumultuous political climate where the lives of countless impoverished Americans hang in the balance, it is easy for artists to feel that their cause pales in comparison to other issues. We know that the life-changing capacity of music is worth fighting for, but can its voice be heard on Capitol Hill?

The answer is “Yes”—and will be quite clear this Thursday morning, when more than three hundred students, educators, and other leaders gather at the nation’s capital to advocate for music education. Facilitated by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), Hill Day is an annual assembly of music advocates from all fifty states. After a preceding day of advocacy training and briefing (and a singing rally on Capitol Hill), attendees meet with their state senators, representatives, and legislative advisors to testify to the importance of access to music in schools. This expansive presence of passionate musicians in the congressional office buildings is both compelling and effective.

Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) at the end of 2015. Thanks to the tireless efforts of music advocates, music was specifically mentioned as a part of a “Well-Rounded Education” for the first time in American history (as opposed to being umbrellaed under “the arts” in No Child Left Behind). This explicit definition of music as core was a massive victory for music educators. In addition to definitively conveying the importance of music in schools, ESSA provided a clearer avenue for arts programs to obtain Title I, Title II, and Title IV funding: resources which promote accessibility for all students, regardless of circumstance.

Stories from educators like John Gallagher of Longwood, New York, demonstrate the profound impact of Title IV funding in music programming. Gallagher’s district employed their funds to increase access to musical instruments for children. “We are a lower-middle class school district,” Gallagher stated in a Title IV webinar. “We, like many school districts, could use funding to reach a lot more students to get them involved in our art and music programs… for no other reason but to expand access to them because a lot of them cannot afford the cost of renting an instrument.” Gallagher’s district owns a few instruments which can be rented to students free of charge, but like many school-owned instruments, they were in rough shape. Longwood’s grant application called to resolve this issue: “In my needs assessment, I told people that we need every instrument… We put in for equipment to help our students with special needs: to have instruments adapted to their physical disabilities. It’s for the benefit of our students and all the students we’re not reaching because they can’t afford the purchase or rental of a trombone or a flute or a bass clarinet.”

By arming ourselves with information and a strong network of local, state, and federal advocates, we may add to the nationwide call for equal access to a robust arts education.

The language of ESSA also provided a strong foundation for new advocacy efforts. In the reauthorization of Perkins-CTE, for instance, the inclusion of a “Well-Rounded Education” would allow schools to receive funding for music technology courses through Career and Technical Education (CTE) provisions. Still, despite its definition as a standalone core subject, music remains largely inaccessible in underfunded and underprivileged schools.

Enter the Guarantee Access to Arts and Music Education Act (GAAME). Introduced just last week, this bipartisan bill is the first standalone piece of music education legislation to enter Congress. The GAAME Act calls for school-wide access to “sequential, standards-based arts education taught by certified arts educators (as defined by the State) and community arts providers to meet challenging academic standards.” The bill also outlines “programmatic assistance for students to participate in music programs that address their academic needs.” If passed, the GAAME Act will be a critical step in dismantling the socioeconomic barriers which prevent disadvantaged students from accessing music in their schools.

These massive strides toward equity in music education would not be possible without the advocacy efforts of concerned citizens. ESSA’s continued success is largely thanks to the music students and educators whose stories speak to the importance of Title IV-A funding. In a few short years, music has grown from underneath the umbrella of “the arts” to encompass its own piece of legislation. Still, there is work to be done. This week, the Hill Day delegations will continue the fight for music education by advocating for the GAAME Act in their congressional offices. The bill currently has a list of thirty-eight cosponsors which is likely to grow after Thursday’s 200+ meetings on the Hill. Advocates who can’t make it to their congressional offices can support music education by contacting their senators and representatives by phone, mail, or electronically.

The most important and effective form of advocacy, however, is staying informed. All ongoing legislative processes can be tracked on the official website for Congress. Online resources like NAfME’s Advocacy Bulletin provide analysis and information on congressional developments pertaining to music education. By arming ourselves with information and a strong network of local, state, and federal advocates, we may add to the nationwide call for equal access to a robust arts education. The voice for music can be heard on Capitol Hill—and it’s getting louder.

Live Streaming 104: Post Stream, Graphics, Licensing, and Live Streaming Through Collaboration

Live streaming is trending, feeding the algorithms, and connecting the world in new ways. If you are already putting forth the effort to create a musical production of any kind, adding another technical layer is very much worth it to share your music, create a community, and market your product. Plus, you will end up with excellent content for blogging, your portfolio, submitting to competitions, and consistent posting to your social media channels.

In my previous three posts, we covered the why, where, and how of successful live streaming. This final article is a sort of postlude, to discuss post-stream content benefits, to clarify some concerns about licensing, copyright, ownership, and agreements, and to encourage you to think beyond the scope of what you are able to do by yourself.

Post-Stream Benefits

There is a segment in Live Streaming 101 about post-stream benefits, but I think it is worth repeating. Once your stream is over, you will have an HD video (saved to your mobile device, camera, or computer) and synced audio. If you have an engineer helping you out, you can master and remix the live audio and re-sync to the video pretty easily at this point as well.

Once the video is polished, if possible, I recommend segmenting the concert by piece and creating a separate video for each piece. I recently did this with three of my short piano pieces from a February 2018 concert at Kalamazoo College, presented with Aepex Contemporary Performance. Instead of bulking them into one video, I cut them into three shorter videos. Here’s what they look like:

Glass Study One
Glass Study Two
Glass Study Three

By having shorter content, this gives me three opportunities to repost to Facebook and Twitter, three opportunities to tag and mention my many collaborators (Kalamazoo College, Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, Aepex Contemporary Performance, Justin Snyder), and listenable examples of my music. I could even make a YouTube playlist of all three, and add to it if I make more videos in the future.

If we quickly dissect the social media impact of three videos, with four partners we can tag, we get 24 sharing points (three videos tagging four pages three times on two social media platforms) which will only be multiplied by the algorithms of social media and the shares made by your friends. These videos can also be featured on your website, and—as mentioned before—emailed to your subscribers. Segmenting videos and delaying the release also allows you to be consistent with your social media presence—taking a singular event and spreading the content out over many months.

There are many ways to spice up your live stream in post-production and they usually include graphics. You can do anything, but the standard for concerts seems to be 1.) a title slide or sequence of title slides, 2.) a bar or graphic in the lower third of the video image that you can use to denote the name/movement of a piece and the performers playing, and 3.) closing slides for crediting performers, funding organizations, and your website. For all of these images, make graphic files the same size as your video resolution.

This brings us to creating graphics for your stream.

Graphics for streaming and post-stream production

Inserting graphic overlays and title slides into a live stream is really only possible using an external encoding program like OBS, Switcher Go, or some other non-mobile tech. It’s a really great effect for your next level professionalism; you can have the concert poster start the stream, followed by composers/performer/piece title bars that overlay the video image, like in this live stream I did for The Gilmore.

To create these graphics—specifically the overlay bar—you need a design program that can create a transparent PNG. I use Canva, a simple online graphic design program. (I do believe that the transparent PNG option is a paid feature.) Once you get past the title slides, designing a piece/composer/performer bar for the lower third of the screen is really easy. My recommendation is that you design it in a 1920 x 1080 pixel format, which is standard HD definition, so when you load the graphics into your streaming software, they automatically fit the HD video image. To create the lower third bar effect, use the same resolution, create your lower third image, then download with a transparent background in PNG format. As always, do your research and make sure you know what your video image resolution is.

If you don’t have the encoder software that allows you to import graphic overlays during the stream, take the time to edit your video post-stream and use these graphics (like I did above) or other video editing software to make your videos look awesome.

Licensing, ownership, and approval

As with all non-public domain music, there are some licensing and copyright issues that can arise with live streaming new music. Questions about this were posed to me at my presentation at the New Music Gathering in Boston this past spring, and thankfully, after an interview with Chris McCormick at BMI, I am fully aware of the concerns that can arise, and the solution to properly and legally address them.

In short, you need to get approval from all composers represented on your concert live stream, and all performers who will be part of your live stream. I recommend drafting up a simple letter of agreement for composers and performers detailing 1.) how much they will be paid 2.) how many services are expected (rehearsals and performances) and 3.) that the performance will be recorded and streamed live, with all planned future uses outlined. It’s important to note that the rights to produce a piece can be controlled by 1.) the composer and publisher or 2.) just the composer. The composers involved should know whether or not to include their publisher if you are unsure.

When your video is uploaded to YouTube, it becomes YouTube’s responsibility to pay the PRO (Performing Rights Organization, like BMI and ASCAP) based on streaming data that it sends quarterly. If you are streaming the music of other composers (which you should already have approval for anyway), YouTube will typically direct the streaming fees to the right places. Of course, this works best for pop acts that accrue more streams and have larger representation. After speaking with Chris at BMI, I learned that Twitter and Facebook are currently working on developing their licenses with the PROs, whereas YouTube has a pretty robust system already, so we may see some future changes in how we credit and control intellectual property in live streams.

Thinking beyond your limitations

After reading these four articles, I hope you have gained a deeper understanding of where to begin your live streaming journey, how to do the research necessary, and how to ask the right questions to start your own streaming. If you get hooked like I did, consider expanding your talents and go a little more pro.

When I started streaming with The Gilmore, I was fortunate to get video work from our upstairs neighbors in Kalamazoo, the Public Media Network. They had the equipment and know how—all we had to provide was clean audio and some direction. After years of cultivation, we have a really great partnership and, through practice, have learned how to get our tech working in the best possible ways to make some great streams. After visiting the streaming room in the basement of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s hall, it was apparent that a high-quality stream needed an entire team of people, and early on, the DSO partnered with Detroit Public TV to make it happen. It made me wonder how many other public media groups are out there with camera equipment and know-how, and how many would be interested in collaborating with local arts groups.

The point of my short story is to encourage you to think of ways to leverage your network to build partnerships and share resources for mutual benefit. When I started working with the Public Media Network in Kalamazoo, we benefited from their robotic controlled multi-camera set up and staff expertise, and they received artistic content for their cable channels and community exposure. It never hurts to seek out local groups and ask. You may be surprised what can come together.

Another option might be to build a sort of streaming consortium that would allow you to pool resources to buy a rig that would work for multiple groups, and you could come together to produce each others’ work.

So don’t limit yourself just because you only have a mobile phone set-up. If you are interested in expanding, seek out collaborators in your community!

End Credits

Thank you for reading this far. Special thanks to my employers, The Gilmore and Kalamazoo College; my video partners Public Media Network; and the New Music Gathering and NewMusicBox for helping me hone my thoughts. Also props to Garrett Hope of the Portfolio Composer for being my first public appearance (here on his podcast) where I spoke about live streaming.

As you can tell, I love talking about this stuff, so please reach out:

Twitter: @schumakera
Or through my website:

Re-Imagining Collegiate Music Education

Among the rolling treetops and mountains of western Massachusetts, the large dome of Sweeney Concert Hall stands proudly atop monstrous Grecian columns. The building itself, Sage Hall, houses the Smith College Department of Music. Its four floors boast numerous practice rooms, grand pianos, and a state-of-the-art Digital Music Room. Newspaper articles detailing the accomplishments of alumnae are prominently displayed on various bulletin boards in the hallways. In the basement, where the college ensembles are based, a tattered article from 2001 is pinned to the wall: “Smith Orchestra Makes Carnegie Hall Debut.”

The landscape of Sage Hall suggests a thriving community of student musicians. Statistically, however, this is not the case. In recent years, the musical ensembles of Smith College have seen a significant decline in membership. The same orchestra that played at one of the nation’s leading performing arts venues almost 20 years ago now only has about 30 members. Despite dedicated retention and recruitment efforts by students and faculty alike, youth simply do not seem as interested in playing in a classical ensemble as they once were. This problem is not exclusive to Smith: at a recent conference, I heard testimonies from representatives of various liberal arts colleges reporting similar struggles with dwindling participation in their departments of music.

By investing in collegiate music programs, we invest in a future community of diverse new artists.

Issues of enrollment in collegiate music programs have a direct, albeit delayed, effect on the new music community. New musicians, composers, and educators enhance the vitality of their local music ecosystems by introducing fresh perspectives and partnerships. Most importantly, recent graduates—especially those from diverse backgrounds—can inspire young musicians to pursue their own artistic aspirations. By investing in collegiate music programs, we invest in a future community of diverse new artists. As a student musician and leader in my own collegiate orchestra, I hope to cultivate robust music ecosystems by illuminating potential barriers for continuing music education and proposing cost-effective methods for ensemble retention and recruitment.

Financial inaccessibility

Socioeconomic status is a major predictor of whether many students pursue higher education. Low-income students typically have to take on one or more paying jobs on top of their regular course load: time that their higher-income peers may spend pursuing valuable professional development opportunities. While wealthy students are more likely to enjoy college and find employment on the other side, low-income students struggle to make ends meet, often sacrificing the pursuit of their dreams in the process. This vicious cycle is painfully evident in music due to the massive cost of instrument purchase, repair, and rental. While many K-12 schools own instruments which are available for student use, colleges like Smith typically do not. Thus, orchestral instrumentalists often find themselves empty-handed after their high school graduations, forcing them to give up their musical studies. Even if students owns their own instruments, the cost of private lessons is another barrier. With tuition rising annually, many college students are intimidated by the prospect of an extra fee and drop their musical participation altogether.

Potential solutions:

— Advertise a “used instrument drive” to alumni and community members so incoming students can continue their instrumental studies.
— Invest in owning cost-effective instruments like the plastic pBone line.
— If one does not already exist at your institution, establish a “beginner’s orchestra” with starting musicians and these acquired instruments. By playing in this ensemble, students have the opportunity to develop musically and eventually join the college’s higher-level groups, enhancing the vitality of the music program.


While dead white composers have certainly made large contributions to music history, their narratives almost always take precedence over women and people of color in classrooms and concert halls. The institutional focus on dead white composers is not only problematic because of its lack of accessibility to students: it also “heroifies” some composers like Wagner who have come to represent racist and anti-semitic ideologies. Considering the most recent surge in student activism relating to tolerance and diversity, it is unsurprising that college students shy away from classical ensembles with long histories of Eurocentrism. Furthermore, collegiate orchestras are primarily composed of white musicians, standing at odds with the increasingly diverse makeup of a global campus. Students are far less likely to get involved with an ensemble that does not directly reflect or serve their community.

Potential solutions:

— Program works by women and people of color which are accessible to the overall level of the group.
— Supplement traditional works from the classical canon with detailed historical contexts that consider multiple cultural perspectives.
— Perform a public benefit concert or other service project at least once a semester. Playing outside the confines of the music building will draw in new audiences to revitalize the group. Today’s students will also be more attracted to an orchestra which upholds values of social justice by serving its community.

Stress culture

In her book Doing School, Denise Clark Pope chronicles the lives of five high school students to illuminate how “we are creating a generation of stressed out, materialistic, and miseducated students.” By placing more value on core academics and GPA than on vocational skills or character building, students are put under the impression that “people don’t go to school to learn; they go to get good grades which brings them to college, which brings them the high-paying job, which brings them to happiness, so they think.” Thus, the “best and brightest” high school students sacrifice sleep for grades, passions for resume-building, and friendships for academic competition. When all of these like-minded people come together at a college like Smith, the “Stress Olympics” begin. Students are often driven to give up their passions for music because of the high standards upheld by their professors, peers, and selves. Many are simply unable to practice their instrument on top of a full course load. Others are intimidated by the ability levels of their sectionmates and leave the group. Either way, exit surveys completed by departing orchestra members are beginning to sound like a broken record: “I just don’t have the time.”

Potential solutions:

— Create avenues for peer mentorship. Higher-level musicians may teach informal lessons or run sectionals. This would present constructive challenges for students of all ability levels.
— Combat stress culture internally. Student leaders may program “stress-free” social activities outside rehearsals to encourage self-care among orchestra members.
— Always ask, “why are we doing this?” In a culture of immense academic stress, it is easy to forget why one would take the time to play an instrument instead of study. I recommend the integration of a program like StoryCorps into the musical curriculum. The art of storytelling allows students to remember why they started playing music in the first place, ultimately reigniting their love for the art. Story-focused programming may be used to recruit incoming first-years to college ensembles, as well as to advocate for music education at local, state, and even federal levels.

Live Streaming 103: DIY Live Stream Tech

During the month of June, I have been writing about live streaming your new music concerts. Live Streaming 101 dealt with the “why” of live streaming. Live Streaming 102 discussed where to host your stream. This week’s installment will discuss some technical requirements for live streaming, but without diving in so deep that you get lost in the ones and zeros of the codec. By the end of this post, however, you should be armed with the basic skills and knowledge required to get a live stream up and running.

Site Preparation

The first thing any stream needs is a reliable, speedy internet connection. To simplify things, here is an internet checklist for your live streaming venue:

1. Get the WiFi/internet login information
2. While you’re at it, if applicable, get the contact info for the IT person or team
3. Get online and do a speed test (google “speed test” in a browser and use the google version)
4. Do a stream test

What matters most when it comes to internet speed for this application is the upload speed. This article has a great, in-depth description about live streaming and internet speeds. The gist is that higher quality streams carry more information (video resolution, audio bit depth) and thus need higher upload speeds.

Internet speed test

If you decide not to use mobile devices or WiFi (which inherently run more risks than a hard-wired connection), you should find an ethernet port and work with IT to make sure you have access. Some schools, companies, or public school venues have firewalls built in to their internet connections, so it’s important to learn about your venue and to make sure you can get to your streaming destination as described in the previous article.

Apart from the internet, it’s also important to test the lighting, sound, and proposed camera locations for your live stream. If you are working primarily with mobile devices, finding camera points close to the stage—but not blocking audience view—will likely be ideal. If you are working with external cameras and a separate encoder, you’ll want a room outside of the hall to run cables to, where your video team can talk freely, and where any computer keys or cooling fan noises (yes, this happened to me during this stream) will not distract from the performance.

iOS and Mobile Tech Camera Set Ups

For the beginner, starting with mobile technologies is the easiest way to go live. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube all have this option in their mobile apps. The resolution and FPS of recent smartphone cameras is high enough to make a nice looking video. You don’t even need the latest iPhone to stream in HD!

But there are two downfalls to streaming with a single mobile device. 1.) the variety of shot is nil. So make sure when you set your shot, it is up close and tightly framed, so your subjects are in clear view. 2.) research and listening suggests smartphone microphones are optimized for the human voice, not your music. So I recommend the addition of a smartphone microphone or compatible audio interface to connect your mics to.

Next, I will take you through some specific tech I have either used or researched with the help of some tech experts from Sweetwater. I have also included Amazon affiliate links where applicable, which will support New Music USA. (If you are shopping on Amazon, you might also consider using Amazon Smile to support their work.)

Mobile Tech Highlights: smartphone audio

Disclaimer: I have received no compensation in exchange for recommending any of the following products. I simply either have used the product itself or it seems well suited to the DIY Live Streaming specs I researched while planning these articles.

For mobile phone audio, I always recommend a microphone or an interface that can handle a stereo signal. Nothing sounds more natural than a stereo signal on a good microphone, I mean, we have two ears, right? There are piles of mono options, but I wouldn’t recommend any of these for live performance streaming.

Shure MV88: stereo mic with multiple patterns, gain control, etc.

Shure MV88

In my own work, I have been using this microphone and, over all, I am pleased. It plugs right into the lightning port of an iPhone, and it has piles of control options via its free app, Motiv Audio.

For zero hassle, this is a great option. It does require the phone to be set to “do not disturb” and “airplane mode” so that cell signals don’t interfere with the electronics. This is not hypothetical. Texts and calls do weird things to the recordings. WiFi can still work in this scenario.

Tascam iXR

Tascam iXR

During my research, I was looking for a two-channel interface that could work with mobile technology. Thanks to my friend and sales rep Vern at Sweetwater, we came up with two solid options. The Tascam was first on the list. The interface boasts connectivity to your iPhone or iPad directly via USB and the lightning port on your iOS device. With this option, you can use your favorite stereo mic pair and send your mobile device an excellent audio signal.

With interfaces, it is important to remember that they cannot charge your mobile devices. Make sure your devices are fully charged for live streaming!

Presonus AudioBox iTwo

Presonus AudioBox

Presonus also makes an iOS-compatible, two-channel interface. I have yet to try out this unit, but I do know that Presonus is an excellent company with great, affordable products. I once used an interface of theirs for ten years before I finally upgraded, and I was still able to resell the device! The iTwo interface is also iOS compatible and has overall better reviews than the Tascam.

Whichever way you go, make sure you talk to a sales rep about compatibility with your video device.

Switcher Go

I came across this app and subscription service during my research, and it is extremely appealing. For a relatively affordable monthly cost, you can use multiple iOS devices to create a multi-camera shoot. This is a pretty attractive option when you’re ready to take the next step and make your live stream productions look more professional by using multiple camera angles, but are not yet ready to invest piles of money into dedicated cameras, switchers, and computers or encoders.

The blog about Switcher Go explains the basic functions of their product. For $29 a month (just do a month at a time if you are not streaming every month), you have access to their software which allows you to connect as many as nine iPhone or iPads as external cameras, wirelessly. With a few friends (who have iPhones or iPads) and some mic stands and mounts, you can create a really professional looking multicam production with an external audio source and other cool abilities.

Stands and Mounts for Mobile Devices

With all of these mobile-based solutions, there are two things you cannot forget: a stand and a mount for your device. I recommend using a good tripod microphone stand with a boom arm, and a phone mount of your liking. (There are so many to choose from.)

My favorite microphone stand is the K&M Tripod microphone stand. I have personally used these for all sorts of applications, and they have never let me down. One of them is almost 15-years old.

There are so many accessories for mobile devices it’s almost obscene. My personal favorite device mount is the Accessory Basics, but I’ll trust that you can do your own homework. When choosing, consider the compatibility with the device, and also make sure the rear camera and the lightning port are accessible while mounted so you can plug in your external mic and still get a good shot. If you are using an iPad, the same considerations apply.

External Camera and Encoder Set Ups

If you are not inclined to use mobile technology, there are other ways to connect external cameras to encoder hardware or software, and then send that signal to a streaming platform. For the beginner, I find this more problematic as it typically requires a computer, more computing power, and—if you want a multi-camera shoot—more hardware.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t do it! As you do your research, just be aware of the cost concerns to get a signal similar to what you could get with a mobile device. External cameras sending video to a computer will also typically need external audio.

External Cameras and Encoder Highlights

Zoom Q2n (audio & video solution)

Zoom has been a long-time player in the mobile A/V world. The Zoom Q2n is a microphone stand-mountable camera and X/Y stereo microphone all-in-one. For a relatively low cost, you can have video and audio going to a computer for streaming via the HDMI out. As always, be wary of adapters if your computer is not already designed to accept an HDMI connection (which carries both video and audio).

Open Broadcaster Software (encoding software)

Some external cameras are able to connect to Facebook Live via the “create” link (as discussed in Livestreaming 102), but if they can’t, there is a simple and free solution. Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is a great program for Mac and PC that allows you to take incoming video signals and broadcast them to a streaming platform such as YouTube or Facebook. Although it has a simple interface, OBS has many options for intake and output that make it a versatile and useful program. With OBS you can have multiple video sources, separate audio sources (if needed), graphics, and other media inserted into your stream. Please note that the higher the quality video you are working with, the greater processing power you will need from your computer.

Side note: as mentioned above when discussing the Zoom Q2n, some cameras will not simply send an HDMI signal directly into your computer. I encountered this when trying to send a GoPro HDMI signal to my 2012 MacBook. Without something like a Game Capture HDMI to USB 3.0, there is no way my MacBook would accept an HDMI signal. Not all camera/computer setups are like this, so it’s important to do your research.

Look for Future Tech

Since preparing my presentation on live streaming for the New Music Gathering, my Facebook has been bombarded with ads from companies trying to sell me live streaming hardware and software. We are definitely in the middle of a boom of new live streaming technologies, which is exciting. So before you commit to a specific system, see what is out there that might best fit your needs, budget, and existing equipment.

Test Everything, Then Test Again

I cannot stress enough the need to test all components of your stream before the day of the event. Make sure audio, video, internet connection, and the output to your specified platforms all works, because usually something will go wrong and you will need the reassurance that you had it working before! Here’s a simple checklist:

1. Test your internet connection and speed
2. Test audio and video sync, shots, and levels
3. Test the connection to your streaming host/platform
4. Test with an actual stream; make sure your audio sounds like your audio before it hits the internet, and your video is clear and not choppy!
5. Check all connections and settings again before the event

In my final article next week, I will discuss live streaming with collaborators (and how to think about building those relationships), best practices for use of your video post-stream, easy ways to achieve graphic overlays and title slides, licensing and copyright issues, and ways to build your live streaming audience.

What’s In a Name? The Orchestra and Its Community

Names influence our lives in a powerful way. Our first names give us our first inklings of individuality. Our last names can connect us to family members across generations. The names of our countries, states, and cities are the foundation of our sense of place and belonging. We are urged to live with purpose and dignity to bring honor to the names of our families and hometowns. Ultimately, a name is a legacy: a vehicle through which we relate to the world and the world relates to us. It is the label on our life’s work and the signature on our past behavior.

To do something in the name of another, then, is an immense responsibility, which poses a challenge for locally based organizations. The name of an individual reflects on one person, but the name of a city or state can encompass millions of people. Thus, from the inception of their titles, groups from the New York Philharmonic to the San Francisco Symphony hold an obligation to represent and to serve their namesake communities.

While the titles of most modern American ensembles accurately designate what they are, they do not convey who they are. It doesn’t take a seasoned musicologist to see the disparity between the communities inside and outside of the concert hall. Older white people dominate the demographics of the average American symphony orchestra, both on and off the stage. Despite the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the United States, only about ten percent of orchestral players are people of color. This demographic manifests in the music itself, too: the works of dead white men top the bills of major orchestras, which still rarely venture outside the Western classical canon. Symphony staffs across the country are working towards increased diversity and inclusion, but the integration of these principles is a slow and sensitive process. In this absence of adequate representation, ensembles must double their efforts to honor their namesakes through service.

I do not point out this obligation because of a lack of effort on the part of American orchestras. Most larger ensembles have staff dedicated to education and/or community engagement who plan outreach events such as benefit concerts and free performances in hospitals or schools. The struggle to serve lies in the divide between the orchestra and its community. Despite widespread budgeting woes, the orchestra remains a cultural symbol of wealth, which stands in stark contrast with the sleeping bags and shopping carts on the sidewalks outside many metropolitan concert halls. This socioeconomic gap is compounded by the homogeneous demographic of the orchestra, which can create tension between the ensemble and the community at large. With the right mindset, however, one can set a foundation for a healthy relationship between a city and its orchestra.

The key: don’t help. Instead, serve.

Maintaining a mindset of servitude will help musical organizations in their endeavor to improve their communities, their relationships with said communities, and the ensembles themselves.

I first encountered the difference between help and service at a community-based learning conference in Holyoke, Massachusetts. As a panelist described the dangers of programs like Teach for America, which put underprepared white teachers into “at-risk communities,” he described their exhibition of the white savior complex—“the perception that wealthy white individuals are the benevolent benefactors of helpless ‘others’.” This definition can apply to well-intentioned orchestral representatives who enter low-income communities of color with the intention of “helping.” They provide resources such as free concerts and musical instruction to underserved populations, but rarely cultivate or maintain genuine relationships with these audiences after their generous work has been publicized to patrons and donors. Instead of being empowered, the population in need often feels belittled for needing to be “helped” at all, ultimately encouraging the systematic power dynamics of race and class which separated the concert hall so prominently from its surroundings in the first place. Service, on the other hand, implies a mutually beneficial relationship founded on equality, collaboration, and respect. Community partnerships are just that: a healthy give-and-take between one party and another. Maintaining a mindset of servitude will help musical organizations in their endeavor to improve their communities, their relationships with said communities, and the ensembles themselves.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is a fantastic example of a group which thrives in service. After a difficult season of musician strikes in 2010-2011, the DSO was forced to reassess its priorities and restructure its organization. Dangerously low on resources, musicians, and patrons, the orchestra turned to its community for survival. Accessibility and community engagement became the defining tenets of the DSO. The orchestra refocused its efforts on community performances in hospitals, churches, and senior centers in metro Detroit.

Increased visibility of the orchestra among new, diverse audiences in conjunction with “patron-minded pricing” caused subscription growth to increase by nearly 25% in three years. The DSO has since integrated free webcasting and extensive educational programming to truly become the “most accessible orchestra on the planet.” Their success is a direct result of healthy collaboration. The ensemble did not enter its community in a self-congratulatory or belittling manner: instead, the DSO simply reached out in its time of need, starting a legacy of mutually beneficial community partnerships. Most importantly, the organization brands itself as “a community-supported orchestra,” not merely an orchestra that supports its community. The DSO is living proof that community engagement is integral, not additive, to a successful ensemble.

Between relentless budget cuts and the increasing struggle to make classical music relevant in a fast-paced world, American orchestras are seeing a steady decline in concert attendance. Ensembles are often far too preoccupied with survival to focus on any sort of community service. However, I’d like to suggest that service is a fantastic avenue to improving the financial and organizational health of symphonic ensembles. The consistent formation and retention of mutually beneficial relationships with community organizations will inevitably improve audience attendance and diversity. Furthermore, interactions with peer organizations and community members offer multiple unique perspectives, which can be invaluable in making programming decisions. Community service isn’t just an obligation: it is a promising avenue for the visibility and vitality of the American orchestra.

Live Streaming 102: Hosting, Preparing, and Advertising Your Live Stream

For those who are ready to add live streaming to their concert presentations, there are a pile of technical preparations and considerations to think through. Before we delve into the technology behind live streaming, let’s look at where it will be hosted.

Hosting your live video

Make it easy for your existing audience and your potential fans to find your live video by hosting it where they gather, and linking the video to as many other locations as possible.

The goal of live streaming is to reach people. To reach people, go where the people are. More specifically, go where your people are. Make it easy for your existing audience and your potential fans to find your live video by hosting it where they gather, and linking the video to as many other locations as possible. Personally, I have streamed to Facebook Live, YouTube, UStream, and The DIY composer in me suggests you go with the free services like Facebook and YouTube. The tech-geek administrator in me likes how works. So let’s start with the free services. But before we do that, it’s important to know a bit of technical lingo.

Streaming Connections

In the next installment, we will look at how to stream with iOS and other mobile devices and beyond. Many simple stream connections can be created using just the phone in your pocket, but it’s helpful to be familiar with a different type of connection: RTMP.

Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) is simply the way audio and video are streamed over the internet. All streaming to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter can be done via RTMP. Regardless of what you are using as an encoder, all you need for RTMP streaming is the “server URL” and the “Stream name/key.”

The YouTube menu [YouTube → Creator Studio → Live Streaming] looks like this:

YouTube stream screen

The Facebook menu looks like this:

Facebook create screen

Facebook, YouTube, and paid providers all have RTMP connections. This means that you can stream to the platform without a mobile device. Instead, you can use external cameras that send video to external encoders for fancier multi-camera systems. For the novice, try using a mobile device for your first live streaming projects. For those seeking multi-camera and alternative connections, understand which platforms are able to connect to your encoder via RTMP.

Facebook Live

Facebook Live is a go-to streaming platform because just about everyone is on it. With close to 2 billion users, chances are, most of your friends are on it. Despite recent changes in the algorithm, the delivery system is effective. Plus, people know how to find you and your page, and you, or a social media assistant, can feverishly share the link with other pages once it goes live.

In my experience, although Facebook live is great at reaching people, the watch times are usually less than those captured via other platforms. Maybe it’s because we are all trained to scroll through our Facebook feeds for the next thing, or maybe the compression Facebook applies to the live videos is less appealing. The average Facebook view times have been clocking in around 1 minute per view. I like to think of Facebook Live as pure marketing rather than a true audience connection.

For best practices, including tech specs (which will be covered next week), read this Facebook article.


We typically don’t think of YouTube as a social network, but it is. If you have taken time to recruit subscribers to your channel, they will typically receive notifications when you are live, depending on their personal settings.

YouTube has many perks over Facebook:

1.) When you drive people to your YouTube live link via your other social media accounts and email, they statistically stay longer.

2.) Unlike Facebook, you can embed your YouTube video link into your website, found in the “advanced settings” of the live page.

3.) YouTube can stream at higher resolutions than Facebook’s 720p. Live streams also populate to your YouTube channel for future views, embedding, and sharing.

Twitter & Instagram

These social media platforms are less known for streaming, and honestly less known to me. Perhaps these platforms are ripe with opportunity! For Twitter, read How to create live videos on Twitter. For RTMP streaming to Twitter, read this article. Twitter can also connect directly with Periscope, a streaming network. For Instagram, the live video feature is part of the “stories” section of the app.

All of these networks are less known for music, but as expressed previously, if your audience is there, then by all means stream there!

Paid Hosting Services

When I started streaming with The Gilmore Keyboard Festival, we chose as our video streaming host. This was partially because the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and several other classical music organizations used as their streaming host. At the time, Facebook Live and other young streaming platforms were difficult to access when using a more traditional camera setup, instead of mobile technology.

There are a few good reasons businesses use as a hosting service.

1.) These platforms offer excellent analytics, including time viewed; regions down to country, state, city; ways the stream was accessed; and on what kind of device the stream was viewed.

2.) They can store videos, published or unpublished, and allow the embedding of these videos onto websites.

3.) Simulcasting, which deserves its own header.


Simulcasting is simply the simultaneous broadcasting of the video signal to multiple destinations. Social media platforms do not simulcast. Paid hosting services can. Using as an example, it is possible to send multiple video streams to multiple destinations at the same time. This multiplies the reach of a live stream by however many simulcasts you have access to.

For my work with The Gilmore, we try to gain distribution through the Facebook page of the artist, the venue, presenting partners, as well as our own, resulting in a minimum of four simultaneous live streams. The increase in viewership is impressive.

Interestingly, does not allow simulcasting to YouTube and Facebook, but it does allow YouTube and Twitter, or multiple Facebook pages. It’s also important to note that doesn’t allow RTMP connections without subscribing at one of the highest levels.

In the next article, we will briefly touch upon hard-wiring a simulcast, if you want to step up your live stream reach without purchasing a broadcaster subscription service to do the simulcasting for you.

Reaching Your Audience

With marketing, usually the more you can do, the better. Assuming you are a one-person show or a small team, I recommend marketing your live stream alongside your live performance, in as many digital places as you can.

Facebook Events are a great way to connect with your friends on Facebook, and remind them that they can join the event from afar because it will notify them of the live stream. The live stream link and info can also be posted inside the event. Facebook also keeps great stats. More importantly, if you can get a few people to co-host your event on Facebook, you will greatly expand your reach, your ability to invite audiences in your hosts’ networks, and you will also have multiple destinations for your stream (on the co-hosts’ pages).

Twitter is more immediate, so a little pre-tweeting and then live tweeting during your event, with links to the stream, can help move online traffic to your live stream.

Email is still a powerful source of reaching people. If you haven’t already started a virtual mailing list, now is a great time to do so! Emailing your audience about the concert, including the live stream link prior to and near the time of the event, will help bolster your stream audience.

Blog about your concert and live stream. If you cannot get an interview on a friend’s blog, a local media interview (radio/tv/podcast), or an article in a reputable publication, then you must do it yourself! Create an interesting discussion about your upcoming concert and make sure to including streaming links, and how and where to launch the live stream.


There are many places to host your live stream. It can be overwhelming. I recommend you find the platform where your audience is, and host your streams there so they are accessible to the most people who support you. Then make sure you review the ins and outs of creating a live stream on your desired platform. Next week, we will cover the technology behind DIY live streaming, including some tech suggestions that I have personally used or researched.

An Ode to Pride Month

I used to hate talking about my major. Like many of my peers, I’ve learned to expect unpleasant responses when I say that I study music. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told that I’m going to end up living under a bridge with my trombone, that there’s no money in music, and that I’d be better off pursuing a degree in medicine or law. With time and patience, I’ve learned to smile and nod my way through these conversations. But sometimes, there’s a follow-up question that still makes my stomach churn: “Where do you go to school?”

This dread isn’t due to a lack of pride in my institution. I’ve adored Smith College since the moment I set foot on its campus, and its music department has come to be my second family. However, there’s a major drawback to attending this elite women’s college: I’m a transgender male. That means I was born biologically female, but I view and present myself as a male, and I am most comfortable using he/him pronouns. With the help of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and surgery, I’ve finally attained the deep voice and masculine physique that make my body feel like my home. While physically transitioning has brought me endless joy, it has also presented substantial difficulty in my college career. Unless I lie and say that I attend a neighboring co-ed institution (or that I’m an engineering major), innocent questions like “what/where do you study?” often “out” me as a musician and as a transgender person. I’ve spoken with a few people who can’t decide which is worse.

The countless times I’ve been forced to defend the validity of both my major and my gender have caused me to look more closely at the relationship between these two identities. Through meaningful discourse with other LGBTQ+ musicians, introspection on my own identity, and poring over endless pages of queer theory, I’ve come to realize that matters of music, gender, and sexuality are deeply intertwined in queer lives. My narrative is shared by countless other transgender and gender-nonconforming (GNC) artists. We grow up in despair, feeling trapped in bodies that do not feel comfortable and lacking the vocabulary to explain why. In the chaos of dysphoria and self-discovery, our instruments end up being our most faithful companions.

I didn’t know what my gender was, but I did know that I was the lead trombonist in the jazz band. My sense of belonging in the band was the foundation for my sense of belonging in the world.

Music is so crucial to trans/GNC people because it facilitates the creation of queer space. In lieu of a crash-course in queer theory, I’ll offer a definition of “queer space” as a space which is created and defined by the presence, expression, and/or empowerment of LGBTQ+ people. (Defining the word “queer” itself is a complicated process, as the term has a complicated history of discrimination and reclamation. For our purposes, I’ll use a definition of “queer” employed in many modern social and academic contexts: “not fitting cultural norms of sexuality and/or gender identity.”) Dedicated spaces like these are hard to come by, and are often inaccessible to those who haven’t come out yet. Playing music, however, gives trans/GNC individuals a valuable opportunity to be unapologetically loud and expressive in a cisnormative world which often tries to silence them. Maintaining an outlet to visibly express oneself without fear of violence or discrimination is crucial to the well-being of any person, but especially so for trans/GNC folks. For many of us, music is our only opportunity to feel empowered without feeling afraid. As we play, we fill the hall around us with our musical interpretations and emotions. Our music is a radical act: a consistent cultivator of precious queer space.

Music also does the crucial work of creating supportive communities for trans/GNC people. For many young people, joining a school band or choir is often an important step in forming a sense of belonging and group identity. In addition to offering a brief solace from the trials of adolescence, these musical opportunities foster collaborative relationships. This is a critical opportunity for trans/GNC youth, who often feel isolated from their cisgender peers and are overwhelmingly depressed as a result. I shudder to think where I might be without the support of my high school bandmates and directors. As I grappled with the confusion and discomfort of figuring out who I really was, music gave me the structure, stability, and support that I needed to survive. Most importantly, when I was questioning whether life was even worth this troubling business of self-discovery, music gave me a sense of purpose. I didn’t know what my gender was, but I did know that I was the lead trombonist in the jazz band: a role that gave me an identity and a motivation to get out of bed every morning. My sense of belonging in the band was the foundation for my sense of belonging in the world.

This reflection on the importance of music in my queer life comes at an appropriate time. June is Pride Month: a time dedicated to LGBTQ+ communities in honor of the 1969 Stonewall riots. As I celebrate both my musical and queer identities, I also mourn the fact that not all trans/GNC youth have access to supportive artistic communities like I did. It pains me to think of how many young people are forced to hide their authentic selves without any opportunity for relief. With limited resources for healthcare, education, or emotional support in a tumultuous political climate, trans/GNC students are feeling increasingly unsafe and unwelcome in their schools and the country at large. Now more than ever, it is imperative that the artistic programs which serve trans/GNC youth remain intact. Music presents a unique opportunity for community building and self-expression that can be life-changing for a transgender child. Its accessibility could prove invaluable for trans/GNC students’ continued success, comfort, and even survival. This Pride Month is not just a celebration: it is a call to action.