Liza Lim and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Composing Women program, a professional development initiative helmed by Lim which fosters women composers, have received a Classical:NEXT 2020 Innovation Award. Recognising “forward-thinking activities taking place around the world”, the award is given by the international classical and art music forum in Rotterdam, which has moved online this year in the wake of COVID-19. One of three, the award was presented in a live-streamed broadcast, available to watch on demand.

Liza Lim, right, with the 2020-21 Composing Women line-up

Lim, who is Professor of Composition and Sculthorpe Chair of Australian Music at the Sydney Conservatorium, spoke to Limelight of the pride she feels about “what’s been achieved in gender equity in music through this program in the last five years at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music thanks to the incredible work, vision and support of so many people.”

“We’ve been part of a world-wide conversation to address systemic inequity for women in music and together with many others, I’m happy that our work has helped shift perceptions around women composers’ achievements both here in Australia and internationally,” she said. “When we change narratives around who can have a voice and what can be heard we create new realities and Composing Women has shown the power of that in the success of the participants.”

“Cultural and social change is a ‘whole-systems’ endeavour and I’m incredibly grateful to Professor Matthew Hindson who set up the first iteration of the program as the National Women Composers Development Program in late 2015, the Con’s Dean Professor Anna Reid, composers Anne Boyd, Paul Stanhope, Carl Vine, Damien Ricketson, Moya Henderson, Maria Grenfell, Rosalind Page and others. I’m grateful to our many partners – Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Chamber Opera, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Sydney Dance Company, Goldner String Quartet, Claire Edwardes, Claire Chase, Australian Music Centre, APRA AMCOS, Musica Viva Australia, ABC Classic and most importantly, the composers who are making brilliant work with so much more to come: Natalie Nicolas, Ella Macens, Clare Strong, Elizabeth Younan, Josephine Macken, Georgia Scott, Peggy Polias, Bree van Reyk, May Lyon, Brenda Gifford, Fiona Hill, Jane Sheldon.”

In thinking about what the award means for the program’s future, Lim said “Composing Women goes from strength to strength with recent events like Breaking Glass with works by Josephine Macken, Georgia Scott, Peggy Polias and Bree van Reyk produced by Sydney Chamber Opera being a wonderful showcase of what new opera can be. The Classical:NEXT award and international recognition helps us as an institution to keep evolving and building on our work because we can be more radical with our hope and vision for more equality in music.”

The program’s award citation reads, “For being the only higher-level composition programme for women demonstrating a sustained, strategic commitment to change. Liza Lim and the Composing Women programme has a strategic vision, resilience and ongoing commitment to excellence. It represents a successful model which could be – should be – adopted far and wide.”

The Composing Women’s 2020-21 line-up consists of May Lyon, Jane Sheldon, Brenda Gifford, and Fiona Hill.

For the 2020 Innovation Award, a committee of 26 music journalists and experts from 25 countries and every continent put together nominations which formed the initial longlist, from which 10 nominees were shortlisted. The three winners were selected from the shortlist by a vote open to the Classical:NEXT community.