By Connie Kim
This Women’s History Month, take a look back at six incredible accomplishments made by women in classical music over the past year, including notable awards, works, and more! These examples showcase the artists’ overflowing talent and commitment to making the classical music world a more inclusive and equitable space.
- Ezinma Founds “Strings By Heart”
Classical hip-hop crossover violinist Ezinma is known for her string collaborations with pop artists such as Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and SZA and her work on the score for Marvel’s blockbuster Black Panther. In 2022, she founded the nonprofit organization Strings By Heart, an initiative that provides instruments, access to lessons, and music education opportunities to children in historically marginalized communities. “The statistics are clear that music education plays a vital role in helping children and young adults get on the path to achieve their goals, improve self-esteem and more,” Ezinma explained in an interview with The Strad. “Children from every background and community deserve the chance to experience the joy of classical music and feel that they belong in that world.”
- Emily D’Angelo Wins Classical Album of the Year at the 2022 Juno Awards
The initial inspiration for mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo’s Juno Award-winning album enargeia came from a woman who was crucial to classical music’s development: medieval composer and polymath Hildegard von Bingen! Already the first and only vocalist to receive the Schleswig Holstein Festival’s Leonard Bernstein Award, D’Angelo crafted the remarkably innovative album around the music of women composers from the 12th and 21st centuries. enargeia was also named one of NPR’s Top Ten Classical Albums of the Year and CBC Music’s Best Classical Album of the Year in 2021.
- Lina González-Granados Leads the Chicago Symphony With One Minute’s Notice
Sphinx Medal of Excellence winner Lina González-Granados’ cool head in a moment of crisis made headlines last year (and made a lasting impact on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s audience). When another conductor tested positive for COVID-19 at the last minute, González-Granados – who had been studying the program as the CSO’s Solti Conducting Apprentice – stepped in to lead the performance with very little time to rehearse. Her preparation paid off, and the concert was a resounding success. González-Granados was named resident conductor of the L.A. Opera in October 2022.
- Yuja Wang Plays a Rachmaninoff Marathon
Earlier this year, top pianist Yuja Wang tackled a “once in a lifetime” feat at Carnegie Hall: in one sold-out concert lasting over four hours, she played all five of Rachmaninoff’s works for piano and orchestra back-to-back. Hailed by the New York Times as “electric,” “calmly dazzling,” and “elevating to witness,” this performance was truly one for the history books. (Fun fact: Widely considered a style icon, Wang wore five distinctive outfits to complement each work!)
- Lara Downes is Named Performance Today’s 2022 Classical Woman of the Year
Last March, acclaimed pianist and visionary Lara Downes was named Performance Today’s 2022 Classical Woman of the Year. Hailed as a “musical ray of hope” by NBC News, Downes is known for her many groundbreaking collaborations, releases, and projects including Rising Sun Music, a series of recordings “focusing on music and stories of Black composers of the past two centuries.”
- Julia Wolfe Premieres “Her Story”
Co-commissioned by 5 major U.S. orchestras, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe’s gripping new oratorio “Her Story” pays tribute to the ongoing struggle for equal rights and representation for women in America. Wolfe’s work explores American cultural attitudes through historical texts written by women and labels that have been weaponized to harm women. “Her Story” was premiered by the Nashville Symphony in September 2022 and will be performed over the course of this year by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and D.C.’s National Symphony Orchestra.