Breaking the sound barrier for women in music

Anna Reid, Dean of Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Image: sydney.edu.au.

Most people can probably name a handful of prominent male composers and virtuoso instrumentalists off the top of their heads, but would stumble trying to name any women. Rita Bratovich spoke with the Dean of Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Anna Reid, about why that shouldn’t be and how the Women In Music series is a step towards changing it. 

The Women In Music program features female students, graduates, and teachers from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (the Con), ranging from beginners to established artists. They are composers and musicians representing a variety of genres including jazz, contemporary, classical and cabaret. 

The performances take place in a soirée styled environment in the comfy chair-filled rooms of the Women’s Club in Sydney’s CBD. 

“Originally, music was pretty much played in salons, you know, people’s living rooms and lovely places like that space [the club],” explains Reid. 

“So in one sense, it’s sort of historical because it will bring the music back into the salon. And curiously, there’s a big movement for music in homes and houses and similar areas, so people are moving away from being in the large concert halls and wanting a much more intimate experience … people love being able to sit around and being able to see the instrument; being able to hear the instrument, you know, see the expression on the artist’s face.”

With its vintage inspired warm interior, the venue promises excellent acoustics. Up to 100 people who will be seated in close proximity around the musicians.  

“One hundred people will be seeing the hands of players and seeing their expressions and notice how they breathe, and they will be having an emotional reaction to the music,” says Reid. 

Composer Sally Davis will perform in Women In Music at The Women’s Club on Friday, 7 May. Image: thewomensclub.com.au.

The Women’s Club not only provides a rare opportunity and unique space for women to perform, but also a chance for the artists to network with prominent businesswomen.  

“We know that the boy’s club network is alive and well, and musicians have always relied on patronage in order to get work. The men are very good at it. So this gives our women a bit of a boost to be able to engage in networking that’s available at the Women’s Club.”

The Women’s Club was established in Sydney in 1901 as a place for women to meet and discuss important issues; make connections; enjoy music, literature and entertainment; and organise behind relevant causes. Many notable women, including suffragettes, political influencers, academics, artists and business leaders have been members of the club. 

Women In Music is a program of seven recitals spread over three months (April, May, June). Each one features a woman or group of women with a particular musical signature. 

Sally Davis is a contemporary composer with a novel, modern approach to writing music.  

“Sally is the most dynamic young musician,” says Reid. “She’s just totally charming. She has these really bright ideas which really reach out to the current listeners on pop music radio, so young people are going to love her pieces.”

Percussionist Chloe Kim will perform in Women In Music at The Women’s Club on Friday, 4 June. Image: chloekimdrums.com.

For a truly unique experience, percussionist Chloe Kim takes the classic drum solo to the extreme in her jazz-meets-Korean infused power session of unbridled improvisation. 

Jana Lombart and her pianist will perform jazz and cabaret standards and other very non-standard, quirky and cheeky numbers. 

Quart-Ed is a string quartet whose repertoire ranges across genres. They’ll perform music from Australian female composers, including some from their own violinist, Caitlin Saniford. 

Women In Music ends on International Make Music Day (Monday, 21 June) with Professor Liza Lim and a group of composers from the Conservatorium’s Composing Women program presenting a selection of works. 

Drinks and food are available for purchase with each session, and there is ample time for mingling and inspiration. 

As Anna Reid says: “When women get together, it’s just creative space.”

For more information on the Women In Music program, visit www.thewomensclub.com.au and www.sydney.edu.au/music. For bookings and enquiries, phone (02) 9264 5383 or email reception@thewomensclub.com.au.

Rita Bratovich is the arts and entertainment editor of the Sydney Sentinel.