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The Plight of the Composeress

For centuries, female composers have often found themselves overshadowed by their male counterparts. Take Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Anna Magdalena Bach, and Alma Mahler, for example. Their names don't roll off the tongue quite as easily as Felix Mendelssohn, J.S. Bach, and Gustav Mahler's do. 

But why?

What about music -- about composition, especially -- led so many to regard it as a male-dominated profession? And just how many great female composers and musicians have been overlooked as a result of historical prejudices?

This hour, we explore the struggles, as well as the triumphs, of women in music. And we want to hear from you. Who do you think should be included in the list of great female songwriters?

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter


  • Sally Beamish - Composer who contributed to the new documentary "Written By Mrs. Bach"
  • Heidi Harralson - Expert in document forensics who contributed to the new documentary "Written By Mrs. Bach"
  • Steve Metcalf - Administrator, critic, journalist, arts consultant and composer. He writes the weekly Metcalf on Music blog for WNPR.org, and is the curator of the Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series at The Hartt School
  • Paula Matthusen - Composer and Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University
  • Carolyn Kuan - Music Director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra
  • Jenny Giering - Composer, singer, and pianist


Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show. 

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