On the first day of her doctoral studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where she is a member of the Composing Women program, Bree van Reyk walked into the library and was met with three composer busts on a front table. All of them were dead, white males: Beethoven, Liszt and Wagner. Elsewhere in the library was another bust of Beethoven and one of the late Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe. Where, she wondered, were the female composers?

Van Reyk emailed Professor Liza Lim, the University of Sydney’s Sculthorpe Chair of Australian Music, who facilitates the Composing Women program. Lim understood van Reyk’s concern and suggested she contact Professor Anna Reid, Head of School and Dean of the Sydney Conservatorium.

With the support of Lim, Reid and librarian Philip Kent, van Reyk decided to do something about it. On behalf of the Composing Women group, she commissioned sculptor Anna-Wili Highfield – who was a friend of hers – to create a bust of Deborah Cheetham to honour her prolific and inspirational career as a composer.

Deborah Cheetham and Anna-Wili Highfield as the bust...