Following the DONNE, Women in Music project’s analysis of the 2018-2019 seasons of the world’s top orchestras (including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra) last year, which found that only 2.3 percent of music programmed was written by women, an analysis of the 2019-2020 seasons has found that little has changed.

The results of this year’s analysis by DONNE, Women in Music, which is founded and curated by soprano Gabriella Di Laccio, show that out of 3,997 works presented, only 142 were written by women composers, or 3.6 percent of the total works performed.

Gabriella Di LaccioSoprano Gabriella Di Laccio. Photo © Anatole Kaplouch

The study used information on the 2019-2020 seasons listed on each orchestra’s website and literature prior to the start of the season and took into account mainly the official concerts of each season. Gala concerts, touring and family concerts were only included when the information provided included a full program of the pieces that will be performed while chamber music was only included if it was performed by members of the orchestra.

The orchestras were chosen based on Gramophone magazine’s list of the world’s top orchestras, and in addition to Australia’s Sydney Symphony Orchestra the list includes the Royal Concertgebouw, Berliner Philarmoniker, Vienna Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and São Paulo Symphony Orchestra.

While the numbers show a slight improvement – 91.8 percent of concerts featured only works by male composers compared with 94.7 percent in the previous season – the research shows there is still a long way to go when it comes to the programming of women composers.

“It is very difficult to find excuses for not having works by women composers present in every concert,” said Di Laccio. “There are thousands of music scores now widely available and the quality of the music is unquestionable.”

Orchestras around the world have been under increasing scrutiny to address the gender imbalance in their programming, with the BBC Proms pledging last year that half of all new commissions will go to women composers by 2022 as part of the Keychange program. The program, which launched in 2018, invites festivals and music organisations to pledge towards 50/50 gender targets in areas such as programming and leadership positions. Since launching it has signed up more than 250 organisations, including English National Opera, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic as well as conservatories, festivals and other music organisations.

“As artists, I truly believe we should always try to cultivate curiosity in our audiences, to open their eyes to a much richer and diverse musical world,” Di Laccio said. “It is possible and it is an incredibly enriching artistic experience for everyone. Plus, we will be supporting diverse role models for future generations. What could be better than that?”


Find out more about the DONNE, Women in Music project here