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For some years Women in Music (UK) has been doing a survey of the numbers of women represented in the BBC PROMS season. The Proms is the largest music festival in the world. This year there are 80 evening orchestral concerts, as well as chamber music concerts, late evening concerts and other related events. Audiences in the Royal Albert Hall are of many thousands, and all the concerts are broadcast, many on television.


The figures for women in the 2012 Proms season are:

Composers: 14/151 (9.2%)

Living composers: 14/56 (25%) [Although numbers of works are 14/72 (19.4%)]

BBC Commissions: 5/11 (45%)

Conductors: 5/58 (8.6%)

Instrumental soloists: 8/45 (17.7%)

The women composers are: Elaine Agnew (BBC Commission); Charlotte Bray (BBC Commission); Helen Grime (BBC Commission); Sofia Gubaidulina; Imogen Heap; Emily Howard; Nikki Iles; Nicole Lizee (BBC commission); Anna Meredith; Thea Musgrave (BBC Commission); Olga Neuwirth; Kaija Saariaho; Joan Tower; Aleksandra Vrebalov.
The conductors are: Marin Alsop; JoAnn Falletta; Jane Glover; Susanna Malkki and Christina Pluhar.

To analyse the figures – last year, although there were 7 women composers featured, all their works were performed in the chamber or late night concerts, apart from one 4 minute fanfare. This year there are to be 8 works by women in the main orchestral concerts and 6 in the concerts which have fewer in the audience. The figures for both composers and conductors are the highest ever, although instrumental soloists are down. Part of the reason there is an unusually large number of women composers, is no doubt because the number of living composers overall is extraordinarily large for any general music festival anywhere.

To put the figures in context, I decided to survey the 2012 - 2013 season of orchestral concerts at the Southbank Centre in London. There are 132 orchestral concerts listed. The figures for women in those are:

Living composers: 0/14 (0%)

Conductors: 5/73 (6.8%)

Instrumental soloists: 18/36 (50%)

So although the Proms season this year is much improved in its proportion of women (apart from instrumental soloists), some other concert-givers are lagging behind!

Jennifer Fowler