Women composers are wildly under-represented in Australian music across all genres but, as Rosalind Appleby discovers, a groundswell of change is gathering force.
“Established string quartet seeks first violin, viola and cello.” That’s the kind of joke ‘wanted ad’ that every chamber ensemble imagines in their nightmares. Musicians find it darkly funny because it speaks to a truth about the precariousness of life in a small classical group in Australia. Let’s say that in the course of studying for your music degree you’ve been thrown together with two or three (or four) other colleagues – perhaps with purpose, perhaps by chance – and realised that you love performing together and want to keep the group going. Well, what then? Where do you look for work? For funding? For philanthropic support? What if you’ve never booked a hall before, or don’t know the first thing about marketing? What happens when one of you decides to move interstate (or overseas) for further study or perhaps to take a job in an orchestra? And what is the compelling artistic reason for the group’s ongoing existence? These questions are the realities for many chamber groups the world over. In Australia, though, the answers are particularly complicated compared to, say, the UK, with its entrepreneurial music societies (and with performance opportunities in Europe not that far away) or