Abstracts for Gender and Musicianship study days, January 24 2022

The abstracts are presented in order of appearance in the event programme.

Saloranta, Elina

“The matter itself is between us alone and innocent”

My presentation is a participatory performance with a five-minute experiment in letter-writing. I will start by reading two letters between two Finnish musicians, singer Elli Forssell-Rozentale (1871–1943) and violinist Anna Forssell (1882–1970). Then I will invite the audience to continue the correspondence by writing a short reply to Anna. The experiment is part of my postdoctoral research “Correspondence with the past” and its aim is to collect material for an exhibition in Riga.

The first letter that I will read in the beginning of my presentation is a kind of MeToo letter from 1905. In the letter Elli tells Anna about a relationship she had had with her teacher in Milan and warns Anna about her own teacher in Münich. The story might sound familiar to some of the Finnish-speaking participants since I presented the letter in the Naismuusikot seminar in 2021.

The second letter is a new discovery. It was written by Anna in 1906, when she had – despite Elli’s warnings – fallen in love with her teacher: “The situation is that his wife has been at her parents’ place with the child for a couple of weeks and, during that time, he has been miserable at home and I have been with him almost every day, driven in the automobile, gone to concerts with him [– –] The matter itself is between us alone and innocent, but it could easily lead to unpleasantness, if the other pupils were to notice anything, since they are otherwise very envious of me, that I am always in first place.”

What kind of replies will Anna receive from the conference guests? How does her matter appear to 21st century musicians, activists and scholars? Is it “between us alone and innocent”?

Keywords: letter, MeToo, participatory performance

Biography: I am an artist-researcher from the University of the Arts Helsinki’s Centre for Artistic Research (CfAR). I am also someone who likes to write letters, and while I was working on my doctoral thesis Genre pictures and experiments in writing (2017), I became interested in letter-writing as a tool or method. As a result, I have now engaged in correspondence with three 19th century people: the Finnish singer Elli Forssell-Rozentale and her sisters Anna and Liisi. In practice, I read their letters and try to reply to them from today’s perspective. Sometimes the reply is a text, sometimes a video piece. My latest video “A letter from Liisi” can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/559939281.

Chorell, Hanna

Mattering meanings – meanings matter. What is a soprano Winterreise?

Schubert’s Winterreise op. 89, D.911, has since the second world war been the domain of male voices. Gendering the protagonist as male has led to harsh public criticism of female performances of the cycle as recently as the 1990’s. Female performances of Winterreise are still a deviation from the norm, a male singer singing the story of a male protagonist. Further, the cycle is associated with profundity and a deep understanding of the human psyche. The performance tradition implies that such subjects are more appropriate for male than female singers. Among female performers low voice type has been dominant with Christine Schäfer’s rendition as the only commercially available coloratura soprano recording of the cycle. Nowadays we hear more and more female performances of Winterreise internationally, hinting that the tide is slowly turning.

In my presentation I will use Karen Barad’s concept of intra-action in examining the nature of a soprano Winterreise. A song and a singer materialize as sounding music and a gendered voice and body in intra-actions of the event of singing. I will ask what kind of meanings arise in the intra-actions of my singing and what is their relationship to the performance tradition. A soprano Winterreise questions the notion of masculinity of a universal subject, meanings associated to a high female voice, and through them reveals conservative and even misogynistic values of our culture.

Keywords: Winterreise, performance tradition, intra-action

Biography: Hanna Chorell is a second-year doctoral candidate in DocMus doctoral school of the Sibelius Academy of Uniarts Helsinki. Her artistic doctoral project explores concert traditions in classical vocal music focussing a singer’s relationship to song texts and ethical and political aspects of a singer’s artistic choices. As a soprano (Hanna Rantala) she made her debut at the Finnish National Opera in 2011 and has since sung over 30 leading and supporting roles, most recently Donna Anna (Mozart: Don Giovanni) and Mona Kummel (Kuusisto: Jää). In addition to the FNO she has sung at the Savonlinna Opera Festival and the Royal Danish Opera. Her doctoral project is funded by the Kone foundation.

Kleemola-Välimäki, Piia

Female Fiddlers in Southern Ostrobothnia

Finnish historical fiddle music has traditionally been dominated by men. The women have not performed instrumental music but have been involved in making music mainly by singing. As a result, only a small amount of the tunes stored in the archives have been collected from women. This is very evident when looking at archival recordings collected from fiddlers from Southern Ostrobothnia, Finland from the 1930s to 1980s. Of the 1776 solo fiddle recordings in the collections of the Finnish Literary Society, Helsinki and the Folklife Archives, Tampere, only 28 are performed by women.

This lecture concert highlights two interesting pioneers in their field. Fiddlers Emmi Salonen (1890–1985) and Tyyne Vanha-Villamo (1901–1990) from Isojoki, Southern Ostrobothnia are the only female players from the area, whose playing can be found in the archives. With the help of archive recordings and the personal history of the fiddlers, the lecture concert will illustrate their playing style, repertoire and the role of female fiddler in the South Ostrobothnian music community.

Keywords: fiddler, female, archive recording, style

Biography: Violinist, Doctor of Music Piia Kleemola-Välimäki is known as an exceptional performer, who is at home in both traditional and more experimental music worlds. The specialty of the Seinäjoki-based artist and researcher is Ostrobothnian fiddle music, which was the subject of her dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Music, completed in 2011 at the Sibelius Academy. Besides the violin, her instruments include kantele, jouhikko (Finnish bowed lyre) and vocals. Kleemola-Välimäki has released three solo recordings (The Polska of the Devil and the Priest/2014, Fiddle Feast/2012 & RindaNickola/2009) and she performs on 30 records. Piia Kleemola-Välimäki has been awarded one-year & three-year artist’s grants by the National Council for Music (2008, 2017-2019), one-year artist´s grant by the Finnish Cultural Foundation (2007 & 2014 & 2019).

Iso-Oja, Essi

The Soul in the Breast of Love sighs – Works for Harp by Women Composers in the late eighteenth century Paris

In the late eighteenth century Paris the harp became an instrument à la mode especially among the women. Previously the harp had been seen as dominantly a male instrument, but suddenly it became highly suitable also for women and young girls. The amount of professional and amateur players raised significantly as well as the repertoire written specifically for the newly invented single action pedal harp. Many women also wrote sonatas, variations, songs with a harp accompaniment and even operas for harp before, during and shortly after the French Revolution. Their music was often published and could be heard in public concerts, theatres and salons.

Today these rare works from 1770–1810 form an interesting fraction of the harp music. The currently revived interest towards the historically informed performance practises and the single action harp create an interesting choice for musicians and researchers to widen their repertoire and explore music from the eighteenth century women composers.

This concert-lecture consists of the source material from the original music scores gathered from the archives (Bibliothèque nationale de France) and private collections. It will discuss and present different use of the harp in various musical contexts. Firstly there is a musical excerpt from a work by a professional harpist-composer from the court and concert repertoire (a Sonate by Talvaz-Duvergé Cléry) and then pedagogical and inventive musical material with technical novelties and sound experiments (Variations by Du Crest de Genlis). Together with a soprano voice will be heard a stage aria with a harp cadenza from a play (Candeille-Simons) and the lecture-concert ends with salon music full of sentiment.

The performers are Essi Iso-Oja, single action harp & Minna Nybeg, soprano.

The program consists of the following musical excerpts:

  • Marie-Elizabeth Talvaz-Duvergé Cléry: Sonate en do: Pastorale (1785) Essi Iso-Oja, harp
  • Stéphanie-Félicité Du Crest de Genlis: Air variée par Madame La Marquise de Sillery (1789) Essi Iso-Oja, harp
  • Amélie-Julie Candeille-Simons: Romance de Catherine (La belle fermiére 1792) Minna Nyberg, soprano & Essi Iso-Oja, harp
  • Maria Hadfield-Cosway: Ogni dolce (1787) Minna Nyberg, soprano & Essi Iso-Oja, harp

Keywords: eighteenth century women composers, harp, aria

Biography: Essi Iso-Oja holds a master’s degree in music majoring harp performance from The University of the Arts Helsinki, Sibelius Academy. She has also additional studies as a harp continuo player in Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Early Music Department as well as studies in microhistory of music and music filology.

As a player and a researcher of the historical single action pedal harp from the eighteenth century Iso-Oja has been participating in various early music ensembles like Elysion and Helsinki Baroque Orchestra. She has worked as an artistic director and a musician also in many staged concerts like Les liaisons dangereuses – Music from the time of the French Revolution; Oriental delights and Sibelius’s Dreams.

Iso-Oja has lectured about the harp and harp music and composed works and arrangements for her instrument. Minna Nyberg is a soprano specialized in early music and the art of baroque gestures.

Ristilä, Jenna

Sex in Sonata Form – A Feminist Reading of Laura Netzel’s Piano Sonata

My presentation showcases my upcoming article Sex in Sonata Form, which is a part of my doctoral research into Finnish women composers at the Sibelius Academy. In this article I’m researching how women composers approach absolute music, and as an example of that I analyze Laura Netzel’s piano sonata (1893) in the light of gendered sonata form theories from 19th century. I show how Netzel uses gendered themes in what could be interpreted as a feminist way, and play excerpts from the sonata.

Sonata form is thought to be the pinnacle of absolute music. According to James Hepokoski (1994), ”the supposedly abstract 19th-century sonata-pattern was actually a cultural text intertwined in ‘narrative agendas’ of sexuality”. Masculine first theme and feminine second theme are concepts that are still being used today, but they were first introduced to music theory by A.B. Marx in 1845. According to Marx the second theme is “more tender in nature, flexibly rather than empathically constructed – in anway, the feminine as opposed to the preceding masculine” (Marx 1845, quoted by MacArthur, 2002). These ideas spread like wildfire over Europe at the time, James Hepokoski claims.

I research how the gendered themes appear in Laura Netzel’s piano sonata. The analysis is based on Marcia Citron’s (1994) and Liane Curtis’ (1997) feminist analyses. Both Citron and Curtis have discovered interesting ways in which women composers handle their thematic material, both texturally and structurally, that could be interpreted as challenging sexual stereotypes. According to my preliminary analysis of Netzel’s sonata, it seems that she has also used similar strategies – for example she turns her second theme into a fughetta that represents masculine, learned style. My analysis is feminist, because it aims to show how cultural perceptions of gender permeated the seemingly pure music of sonatas. The gendered themes created a narrative of sexual difference and oppression, and I examine how a woman composer uses this narrative, modifies it and makes it her own.

Keywords: Sonata form, gender, woman composer, feminism

Biography: Jenna Ristilä (b. 1989) is a Finnish pianist and master of music in both piano performance (2014) and opera coaching (2018). She mostly works with singers, but also performs chamber music and solo repertoire. In Autumn 2021 Ristilä started her studies in the Sibelius Academy doctoral school DocMus, where her artistic research will focus on Finnish female composers from the 19th century onwards.

See, Ning Hui

Concert Programming Strategies: Clara Wieck-Schumann’s Piano Sonata in G minor (1841–42)

Clara Wieck-Schumann’s Piano Sonata in G minor (1841-42) presents a confluence of conflicting trajectories. Published 150 years after its composition, it belongs to a large-scale genre regarded as ‘masculine’, ‘intellectual’, and ‘transcendental’ (Citron, 2000). A professional woman socialised into a male-dominated culture, Wieck-Schumann attracts studies reflecting two centuries of entangled gender, national, and social class ideologies. Posthumous reception evolved from recognising her as a woman achiever, to re-assessing her self-ambivalence and focusing on her creative individuality (Reich, 2001; de Vries, 1996). The few studies of her Sonata focus on evaluation (Selmon, 2010), amidst broader discourse on gender, creativity, and the Western classical musical canon. However, scholars have focused on philosophy rather than action. As classical music institutions navigate the tensions between tradition and transformation, a better understanding of the reasons and processes behind concert programming is necessary for meaningful inclusivity.

My main study, an autoethnographic experiment, situates Wieck-Schumann’s Sonata within four concert programmes. Informed by my literature and methodological reviews, I vary the parameters of genre, style, gender, race, class and nationality these programmes may be seen to represent. My autoethnography examines how my attitudes towards the Sonata can influence my decisions in concert programming and repertoire selection, and the meaning-making that results from each programme design, audience engagement and the performer’s phenomenological experience.

To reflect the dynamism of real-world negotiations of musical value, I position my individual experience within my musical network. In Study 2, I conduct interviews with several piano professors and postgraduates experienced in performing non-canonical repertoire, examining their motivations and processes towards selection, interpretation and concert programming. The concurrence of these two studies allows me to contextualise the emergent themes from my autoethnography. Finally, I will draw links between our programming strategies and broader patterns of canon transformation, and address the performer’s role within these transformations.

Keywords: none

Biography: Ning Hui See is a Singapore-born, London-based pianist and researcher. Her doctoral research at the Royal College of Music – ‘Concert Programming Strategies: Clara Wieck-Schumann’s Piano Sonata’ – examines issues of gender, concert programming, and the Western classical musical canon. Ning Hui is passionate about practical strategies towards the meaningful integration of non-canonical repertoire. She explores the performer’s role, amongst other agents in the musical network, in transforming the canon. She is a C H Scholar supervised by Dr Natasha Loges and Danny Driver and is a Graduate Teaching Assistant for historical studies. Ning Hui has presented at the Institute of Austrian and German Music Research Conference (2021) and the RMA-BFE Research Students Conference. She gave the Singapore premiere of Wieck-Schumann’s Sonata at the Esplanade in 2018. Ning Hui has brought Wieck-Schumann’s music to numerous venues including the Austrian Cultural Forum, St James Piccadilly in London and the Danube Palace in Budapest.

Kivinen, Marika

Anti-Blackness and Resistance Through Performance

This lecture-concert takes as its starting point the concert ”Tribute to Marian Anderson and Kosti Vehanen” that the mezzo-soprano Marika Kivinen and pianist Jenna Ristilä held in Taivassalo in July 2021. The concert was inspired by Anderson’s programming. She often performed  compositions and arrangements by African-American composers, alongside the musical canon.

In 1921, aged just 17, African-American poet Langston Hughes wrote the poem ”The Negro Speaks of Rivers”. Twenty years later, his friend the composer Margaret Bonds set the text to music. In this lecture-concert Kivinen and Ristilä will perform this song, together with an arrangement by Harry T. Burleigh of the spiritual Deep River.

In the 1920s and 1930s Black poets, composers and classically trained singers strived in different ways to challenge anti-Black racism, segregation, cultural stereotypes and the racialized norms of both performance practice and the musical canon of classical music. An analysis of reviews of Anderson’s and Vehanen’s concerts in Finland in the 1930s provides a background to issues of racialization and anti-Blackness in music in a Finnish/European context.  

Marika will in her lecture discuss accountability in musicianship. She will focus on artistic work, that not only seeks to focus on musical interpretation, but which also includes an awareness of anti-Black racism both historically and in a contemporary Finnish musical context. She will discuss whiteness and strategies for making resistance to gendered and racialized norms through  performance. 

Keywords: none

Biography: Marika Kivinen is historian and mezzo-soprano and is currently working on her PhD in General History at Åbo Akademi University entitled ”Tracing Colonialism in Music: Orientalism and Exoticism in Finnish Art Songs 1900–1939”. Her research is funded by the project Untold Stories (Kone Foundation) and the Swedish Cultural Foundation of Finland among others. She is a member of the research association Suoni ry.  

Kuusi, Tuire

Gender differences in work of church musicians

The purpose of this project is to study the health and workload of church musicians, especially during the last 12 months, when Covid19 pandemic has brought its own additional challenges to work. We ask, which factors influence the experience of the workload of church musicians and how the experiences differ between the genders.

The study on the causes of death of Finnish church musicians revealed a clear gender difference in the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) in both cardiovascular disease and cancer. Although mortality for both cancers and cardiovascular diseases was lower in church musicians than in the general population, mortality of female church musicians was higher than male in both disease classes (Kuusi, et al. 2019.) This was a surprising result, since in general population the SMR for both cardiovascular diseases and cancers is higher for male than for female (https://findikaattori.fi/fi/83; https://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2018/ksyyt_2018_2019-12-16_kat_002_fi.html; Pitkäniemi, et al. 2020.)

The presentation will discuss the results described above in relation to the working conditions of church musicians. It will also report results from a new survey using several measures of work load and metal health. Earlier study has shown that loneliness, dissatisfaction at work, and problems in work-life balance increased perceived workload, while children in the family, successful work-life balance, social support, and active participation outside the home protected from stress. In addition, females reported greater mental stress than males. (Viertiö, et al. 2021.)


  • Kuusi, Haukka, Myllykangas & Järvelä (2019). The causes of death of professional musicians in the classical genre. Medical problems of performing artists 34(2).
  • Pitkäniemi, Malila, Virtanen, Degerlund, Heikkinen & Seppä (2020). Syöpä 2018. Tilastoraportti Suomen syöpätilanteesta. Suomen Syöpäyhdistyksen julkaisuja nro 93.
  • Viertiö, Kiviruusu, Piirtola, Kaprio, Korhonen, Marttunen & Suvisaari. Factors contributing to psychological distress in the working population, with a special reference to gender difference. BMC Public health 21.

Keywords: well-being, work engagement, burn out,  cancer, cardiovascular diseases, survey, church musician, gender difference

Biographies (research group):

Tuire Kuusi is professor of music research in the DocMus Doctoral School (Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts, Helsinki). Her research interests are in music-theoretical concepts and their concrete representatives in music. She has conducted research on the perception of harmony and carried out research on effects of music in an individual’s life.

Kati Tervo-Niemelä is a professor in practical theology at the University of Eastern Finland. Among other topics she has studied work orientation and well-being of workers of the church.

Satu Viertiö is a senior researcher in National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). Her main research interest is functional capacity of persons with psychotic disorders.

Jovicevic, Jasna

Double Standards for Female Jazz Instrumentalists – Southeastern European Research

In the Balkan cultural space of Southeastern Europe (former Yugoslav countries), the presence of jazz female instrumentalists is still considered uncommon or unusual, because men have always regarded this kind of music as a male genre.  Not only in the Balkans, is woman in jazz often a delegitimating category in social and symbolic hierarchies. In general, the field of dominant jazz tradition is the male field of power where women remained rejected as “other” since its formation. Female jazz instrumentalists in the Balkans participate in a complex system of rejection, facing double standards and hitting a glass ceiling consisting of patriarchal hegemony, gendered music genre and the semi-peripheral position of women within the wider socio-political center-periphery (West/East) context.  I propose that three different systems of preference are at work here: (1) men over women in a Balkan patriarchal paradigm, because of the gendered cultural rules of participation in the private-public sphere, (2) men over women in the jazz genre, because of the notion of everlasting female as novelty representation in male music, and (3) semi-peripheral status of southeastern European women over Western European and North American women instrumentalists, because of the issues of authenticity in jazz.

The presentation will be supported by the results from the empirical research conducted throughout 2021 in the Southeastern Europe, focused on the young female jazz instrumentalists, studying and performing in different cities in the region. Main methodology of gathering data has been group interviews (5) and the research sample has included 20 young female jazz musicians. Second part will be a presentation of a case study conducted through Artistic research project by jazz female saxophonist and composer Jasna Jovicevic during her performance at the Belgrade Jazz Festival in October 2021.

Keywords: female instrumentalist, music genre performativity, Balkan jazz musician, identity

Biography: Jasna Jovićeviċ completed her BA degree in Jazz Saxophone from “Liszt Ferenc” Academy in Budapest, MA in Music Composition from York University in Toronto, currently working on PhD dissertation in Art Theory in Belgrade. She performed, won several awards at competitions, and artist residency scholarships in Budapest, New York ( ArtsLink, OMI), San Francisco (UNESCO Aschberg), Washington D.C. (Smithsonian Institute), Milan ( Etno Music Competition), Belgrade/Linz ( Ars Electronica), Brazil, India, etc…She performed original music with distinguished musicians such as Hamid Drake, Mike Stern, released 5 solo albums of original music and dozen as a sideman, teaches music methodology, instructs yoga, and publishes scientific researches. She is a founder of many educational music projects affirming gender equality, and arts & science in Artistic research in music. She leads NSJO- Balkan Women in Jazz Orchestra, Super Saxophone Quartet and Jasna Jovicevic Quinary.

www.jasnajovicevic.com, www.nsjo.org

Wolloshin, Maureen

Late twentieth century British jazz: why the women didn’t play

This presentation explains why women were largely absent as performers from the British jazz community in the late twentieth century. It proposes that preoccupation with stylistic difference and technical virtuosity, together with a strong spirit of community among the male musicians of the time, may have compounded the challenges women jazz improvisors faced in seeking agency and visibility.

Additionally, the female form was an unwelcome intrusion on all these male stages. It distracted the male audience from the central logos being articulated through technically precise improvisation and which they sought to revere.

Combined, these factors worked as male garrisons to prevent participation by women in jazz and other forms of improvisation. This continues, though steps to address it may be having a positive effect in the jazz community. There is therefore a need to ensure women have agency and visibility as performers of jazz and improvised music of all genres moving forwards.

Improvisation in all its forms is a social, spontaneous, performative, and virtuosic practice. We must be careful not to allow our preoccupation with gender representation in jazz to distract us from developing and promoting excellence in these practices within and across all forms of improvisational output.

The presentation concludes by proposing that the prioritization of aesthetic excellence (by this I mean the creative application and development of spontaneous, social, and performative virtuosity) in output should not be sidelined by the current drive among some British cultural institutions for 50/50 gender representation on all jazz stages. The promotion and development of such excellence in improvisational language, dialogue, and behaviour, together with the drive for equal representation, is what will really bring about the agency and visibility that is long overdue for female jazz improvisors in Britain today.

Keywords: gender, improvisation, jazz, equality

Biography: Maureen Wolloshin is a British experimental musician; an oboist and cor anglais player working between notation, improvisation, composition and performance. She creates music which sparks the imagination and challenges accepted norms. As a composer, Maureen is interested in the relationship between sound, colour, touch and improvisation. She combines watercolour graphic score making with practices derived from Scottish piobaireachd and Arabic music. Her ‘sonic paintings’ are starting points for improvisations which she describes as collaborative spontaneous compositions. Maureen is undertaking a practice-based PhD at UCA exploring the agency and visibility of female improvisors in contemporary British free-improvising formations.

Website: https://www.maureenwolloshin.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maureen_wolloshin/

Audible Women: http://www.audiblewomen.com/?listing=maureen-wolloshin

Guénault, Eleanor

Gender ratios in UK brass playing

Fifty years ago, women were almost unheard-of in orchestral brass sections in the UK and most brass bands were exclusively made up of men. Representation has improved in recent years, and the post-feminist view might suggest that there is no more work to do here, since women and girls can and do play brass instruments of every kind. However, brass instruments still retain a masculine image which means that men dominate in this field and this suggests that equality of opportunity is still lacking. This quantitative survey is part of a doctoral project that investigates issues of gender in contemporary UK brass playing and considers how a more equal representation might be achieved.

The study was divided into three parts, each looking at the gender ratio in a different brass-playing context: professional and semi-professional ensembles; freelance musicians; and youth ensembles. Gender and instrument were recorded for each individual, as well as the location and type of ensemble. Results showed that women and girls are still underrepresented in all brass-playing situations and across nearly all instruments. The only exceptions, where there were more women than men overall, were the flugelhorn and tenor horn positions in brass bands. Low brass sections had the fewest women and girls, and professional orchestras had a lower percentage of women than brass bands. The general trend showed that women and girls are still more likely to play the smaller brass instruments, but that musical context and role prestige also influenced the presence of women. This presentation will situate these findings in a historical context and in relation to other recent empirical research. It will end by discussing potential obstacles for women and girls that may prevent them reaching their full musical potential.

Keywords: Gender, brass, orchestra, brass band.

Biography: Eleanor’s research interests surround the issues of equality diversity in music education, and specifically the question of gender balance in brass playing. Her Masters dissertation explored representations of gender in brass method books, and her PhD research extends this to explore questions around role models, gender stereotypes and how music education research can play a part in diversifying instrumental opportunities for children and young people. Eleanor is a freelance performer and educator based in North-West England. As a horn player she has performed frequently with major orchestras including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Manchester Camerata and the Manchester Concert Orchestra. Her education work encompasses one-to-one and small group lessons, ensemble tuition and whole class settings, as well as demonstrations and introductory classes to encourage an interest in brass playing.

Piirainen, Anne and Zelnick, Stephanie

Obstacles and Open Doors: Female Clarinet Pioneers in the mid 20th Century. A brief comparison between opportunities and impediments to women on the instrument around the world.

Until the mid-20th century, the clarinet has been perceived as a “male-only” instrument. Even though a few females played the clarinet in the 18th and 19th centuries (such as Josepha, Cordula and Caroline Schleicher), the first professional appointments of women clarinetists in orchestras and conservatories are recorded only since the 1940s (e.g., Jeanette Scheerer and Emily Wolf). Between 1960 and 1980, several female clarinet pioneers paved the way for the present, more equality-aware generation of clarinetists. There are several significant differences between regions. For example, in Finland the first female orchestra clarinetist was appointed in the late 1970´s only.

This presentation will focus on the experience of “what it’s like to be first” from selected first-generation women clarinetists. The research is based on interviews led by the clarinetist-researchers Zelnick and Piirainen, tackling both artistic and socio-cultural questions around female clarinetistry, such as: How cultural trends affected the inclusion of women into the world of clarinet? Why was clarinet so far behind other instruments? What about the perception of women as weaker, smaller, more sexualized? Are there repercussions on playing techniques, or in the manner of breathing? What about role models, and about equal payment?

The discussion on women clarinetists and inclusion in a more general sense is an important current topic, both in academia and beyond. The scope of literature on this topic is broad, such as in the Journal of the International Clarinet Association (Daffinee and Ludewig-Verdehr, 2021; Zelnick, 2019). A thorough analysis of the legacy of the women pioneers from 1960–1980, however, is still missing. Seen through the lens of present-day performers, this research aims to give new insights in the processes that hindered or enabled women to be “just clarinetists”, and to identify what we can learn from the past to use for a constructive and inclusive future.

Keywords: none


Dr. Stephanie Zelnick is the Professor of Clarinet at the University of Kansas and Principal Clarinet of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra. She has performed and taught throughout the United States, Asia, South America, and Europe to great critical acclaim. Her work can be heard on National Public Radio, Colorado Public Radio and the Naxos and Innova labels, among others. Dr. Zelnick is a Buffet-Crampon Artist and Clinician. More biographical information can be found at www.stephaniezelnick.com.

Finnish-German clarinettist Dr. Anne Elisabeth Piirainen finished her artistic doctorate on the topic of Russian/Soviet clarinet music and is currently a visiting postdoc researcher at DocMus, Sibelius Academy. Her CD with clarinet music on Jewish themes will be released in spring 2022 on the Toccata label /Naxos. More information on www.annepiirainen.com.

Gouzi, Apolline and Macé, Arthur

“Not alms but fees”: creating a labour market for women musicians in interwar France

In 1910, in order to cope with the precariousness to which women musicians were exposed, a group of French singers and socialites gathered to create the Union des femmes artistes musiciennes (UFAM), a mutual benefit association offering its members financial, legal, medical and moral support. Heir of the salon culture, the UFAM intended to provide assistance to its members through the charity of rich donors. However, the paradigm shifted quickly: while relying at first on patronage, the Union then aimed at emancipating women musicians from it in order to achieve a new objective. “Our clear goal is assistance through work, not through vulgar alms1thus declared its president Lucy Tassart in 1914.

With the help of recently unearthed archives, the aim of our paper will be to observe how the Union – which consisted of more than 1,200 female-only members in 1914 – succeeded in creating work spaces and opportunities for women musicians, in a context where many musical professions were formally or tacitly forbidden to them. Like other associations such as the Orchestre féminin de Paris, extensively studied by Laura Hamer2, the UFAM’s history is at the crossroads of several issues: how were women’s solidarities established? What were the consequences for the lives of these women? How were these solidarities perceived by society? In what economic and symbolic struggles was the Union’s philosophy embedded? In this paper, we will attempt to answer these questions and put them in perspective with broader concerns stemming from the fields of feminist theory, labour history and music history.


  • [1] Lucy TASSART, “Compte-rendu moral de l’année 1913”, private archives
  • [2] Laura HAMER, Female Composers, Conductors, Performers. Musiciennes of Interwar France, 1919–1939, London, Routledge, 2018.

Keywords: music associations, first-wave feminism, UFAM, Union des femmes artistes musiciennes, women musicians, labour history, musiciennes

Biographies: Apolline Gouzi is a graduate of the Paris Conservatoire and student at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris (ENS). Her research subjects center around cultural transfers between France and England and the history of French festivals and festival culture in post-World War Two society. She has presented her work on several occasions in French (MSH Paris-Saclay, École des Chartes) and European academic institutions (University of Cambridge, University of Bayreuth, University of Bangor).

Arthur Macé is a graduate of the Paris Conservatoire, where he conducted research on the role of music in diplomatic, political and diasporic exchanges between France and Russia between 1870 and 1930. His work has been presented in various European institutions (University of Lyon, University of Bangor, Palazzetto Bru Zane, Gnessin Academy). He is currently in charge of the valorisation of research at the Paris Conservatoire.

Knibbs, Chloe

Ruins, Erosion and Sonic Disintegration: Exploring the narratives of Grandval, Jaëll and Holmès

This paper will detail the creative and research-based process carried out over the course of the Jerwood Artist Bursary project “The Female Creative Voice”, leading to the composition of Ruins (Consultants: Daffodil Perspective, Rene Mogensen). Centring around the work and lives of three 19th century French composers – Clémence de Grandval, Marie Jaëll and Augusta Holmès – this paper will explore how the metaphor of ruins provided a creative framework to navigate the individual and societal responses to the selected women composers. Moreover, the paper will look at the identified “erosion factors” – sociological issues that affected Grandval, Jaëll and Holmès – during their careers. Beginning with a reflection on the creative process that led to the use of these “erosion factors”, the paper will look at the role of pseudonyms in Grandval’s career,  the impact of gendered expectation on Jaëll’s identity and how an emphasis on beauty impacted the value placed on the works of Holmès. Following this, there will be a discussion as to how the techniques of intertextuality and sonic disintegration allowed the works and lives of Grandval, Jaëll and Holmès to be synthesised into the stand-alone creative work of “Ruins”. Finally, the paper will share the online installation format of the work before reflecting on the learnings of this creative process, and how it can be applied to critique the cultural neglect experienced by women composers and their works.

Keywords: sonic disintegration, composition, woman composer identity

Biography: Chloe Knibbs is a composer, sound artist and researcher currently based in Birmingham. Her work centres around the voice, exploring theatricality and the interplay between the voice and electronics. Her practice utilises a collage-like approach that juxtaposes historical and contemporary sources to consider the representation of women composers, with a specific focus on the 19th century. Featured on BBC Radio 3, Chloe has worked with a range of ensembles and organisations including the Hebrides Ensemble, Riot Ensemble and the Birmingham Opera Company. She is also included in the British Music Collection and her work has been supported by the PRS Women Make Music Scheme, Jerwood Arts and Arts Council England. Having completed a Masters in Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire with Joe Cutler, she is at the outset of a PhD in Composition at the University of York with Stef Conner.