Pianist gives female composers center stage

Ameila Perron

Friday, April 21, women of the musical world were given their due in a recital which featured the work of female composers as performed by pianist and Lawrence alumna Dr. Nancy Boston.
Boston’s appearance at Lawrence is part of her sabbatical project to expose audiences to the music of living female composers. She contacted the Conservatory to arrange the recital and, according to professor of piano Anthony Padilla, “She’s an alum, so we were happy to have her play.”
Boston is a professor of music at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. “She has been specializing in performance of female composers for 15 years,” said Padilla.
A member of the International Alliance for Women in Music, Boston has participated in international festivals of female composers and is currently working on a CD, which will include the works performed Friday.
“She also has a lecture titled ‘Good Daughters of Music’ that discusses the emergence of female composers,” Padilla added. Boston did not give the lecture Friday night.
Boston’s interest in female composers dates to her early years of teaching. “One of my first years at Mansfield they had a week of women’s events, including a pianist who came in and did a concert of music by women composers,” she related.
“Since then I have programmed traditional literature and pieces by women composers, also programs of totally women’s music. . I feel that history has ignored this music, and that it stands up very well in comparison to the music by men composers.”
Boston’s work addresses what she considers a long-neglected issue. Lawrence fellow Jen Fitzgerald, also an IAWM member, noted, “There’s a large representation of men in new music now. At Lawrence, you’ll notice that the composition students are largely male. There’s such a long history of men dominating music. That history persists.”
Boston further observed, “Right up to the 20th century, women who composed were thought of as neglecting their women’s duties. There still is a historical attitude about women composers in general which has to be addressed constantly before it will fade away.”
The music Boston selected, with jazz and pop influences, was meant to be accessible to a variety of audience members.
“In the 20th century, music by women followed the same trends in composition as that of male composers,” Boston said. Fitzgerald added, “Experience varies by the individual, and being a woman is part of the individual experience.”
According to Fitzgerald, “The most important thing is to not make assumptions about what women’s music should sound like. It’s a broad spectrum.”
Despite what she considers the great progress made by women, Fitzgerald acknowledged that female composers still have a long way to go. “Women may not need to be pioneers in most fields,” she said, “but composition is one of those fields where they still do.