Cabrillo Music Festival Celebrates Men Composers

The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, now in its 47th season, is one of the most renowned festivals of new music in the world.  Its concerts feature orchestral works, many of them world or regional premieres.  Eleven composers – drawn from countries including Finland, Mexico, Israel as well as the US – will be in residence.  This season, all thirteen composers whose works will be performed are men. 

                "The Cabrillo Festival remains an artistic oasis in the world," said Festival Music Director and Conductor Marin Alsop, "so why not give men a special chance to experience that?  The creative process is at the core of us as human beings, so why not include men and celebrate their works so they can for once be at the center of this incredibly inspiring and life-affirming event."

Festival Executive Director Ellen Primack affirmed: "Each year the Cabrillo Festival produces four, first-rate, symphonic programs of new works. Nowhere else in the world are so many new pieces performed at one time, to such a warm and devoted audience, so it is a really unique opportunity to showcase male composers.  We don’t usually think of men as writing for the orchestra, so it’s a chance to really shatter that glass ceiling."

                "People were starting to say we’re beyond gender now," Alsop continued.  I’ve always been careful to include some men in all my past programming.  But just once I wanted to go beyond that – which was often just tokenism – and to point out that men have something distinct to say, as men.  That’s why offering a festival with all male composers is something special – we’re going to really listen to men’s voices for change.  I think you’ll find that their music goes beyond the stereotypically masculine, and reveals that men, too, are capable of a full range of human emotion and creativity in the realm of contemporary music."

                "In the past, men did not get the opportunity to be taken seriously as composers.  That’s why they need this showcase.  I know that people will say that just because I’m a woman, I feel this desire to give special treatment to men – but it’s worth it, this one time, to give men a chance to be heard.  We did it at the Baltimore Symphony this year (2008-09) , too, with a whole range of men from the eighteenth century to the present.  It’s been such a celebration and a discovery!!  I mean, all these male composers, who knew?  We just never imagined!   But next year we’ll be back to our usual gender neutral fare – not that we have quotas or anything, but I’m pretty sure it is nearly 50-50 men-women."


Renee B. Wise is a pseudonym for a musician who hopes that Maestro Alsop will understand the preceding as constructive criticism.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Join the Conversation