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Women's History Month at WRTI: A new canon, and a new climate

Jane Bunnett and Maque
Lauren Deutsch
Jane Bunnett, seated, with the other members of Maqueque.

Drummer, bandleader and educator Terri Lyne Carrington just won her fourth Grammy award with New Standards Vol. 1, which advances a new canon of women composers in improvisational music. The album, and its accompanying book of songs, reflects the vital work Carrington is doing to envision what she calls “jazz without patriarchy.”

She’s far from alone in this aim: within the classical realm as well as jazz, works by women have found far greater representation on record and in concert programming during recent seasons. The Philadelphia Orchestra has shown a steadfast commitment to the music of Florence Price, for instance, while Opera Philadelphia has appointed Courtney Bryan its new composer in residence. Some of the most acclaimed new music in the field has been the work of restlessly inventive composers like Julia Wolfe, Missy Mazzoli and Caroline Shaw.

So on this first day of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating forward progress while reflecting on past milestones. We’re delighting in new music by Maqueque, the all-women Afro-Cuban band led by Jane Bunnett. We’re devoting our Album of the Week feature to exceptional releases by women, like Lakecia Benjamin’sPhoenix, which Carrington produced. And we’re marveling at the breadth and quality of these 10 standout classical albums released since the last International Women’s Day.

On this year’s International Women’s Day, next Wednesday, March 8, join us for a full day of on-air programming in the spirit of the event. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., our classical hosts will play music exclusively by women composers — some 70 in total, from Hildegard von Bingen to Jennifer Higdon. And from 6 p.m. to midnight, you’ll hear music by women in jazz: modern paragons like Brandee Younger as well as icons like Billie Holiday. Be sure to tune in — and stay tuned, for more music and stories that turn the tables.

Nate Chinen has been writing about music for more than 25 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Editorial Director at WRTI, he oversees a range of classical and jazz coverage, and contributes regularly to NPR.