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.

Join the Conversation

  • quantummechanik

    It’s about time!
    Although I want to thank all of the organizers of this event for giving us permission to showcase our work. We’re not crazy–it’s not like we want to be thought of as EQUIVALENT to the REAL composers–but it’s nice to know that, after a really nice introduction on how we can be just as good as anyone else, we get to be on the same stage as the big girls.

  • Gopher

    HA! I initially read it as serious until the ending disclaimer. It sounds like some sort of shit an MRA would say, or do, so thats why I thought it was real! Funny! #:)

  • hindeviola

    O sad truth. At least Alsop is conducting – she’s awesome. Unfortunately, she is one of few in a conducting world dominated by men. I suppose we are making small strides though.. slowly:,0,3926543.story
    I’d say the world of classical music needs a well-placed feminist kick in the ass.

  • lost password

    Oh man. Beautifully done!

  • manlyman

    wow who are the sexists now.

  • feste

    Nicely done!
    I just did a quick search and found 68 music festivals devoted to women.
    Here’s the search link:
    (If there are more, let me know!)
    The home page is:
    KadmusArts is a completely open and free community site for travelers to find every dance, music, and theatre festival in the world! Every day, festivals, artists, and audiences add to the site, plus festival and artist features, interviews, culture news and blog, playlists, and more. 8,000 festivals from 154 countries – and counting!

  • R.B. Wise

    THanks, feste —
    Cabrillo is a festival for classically trained composers of contemporary music — the festivals on kadmusarts seem to be mostly popular/folk type genres as opposed to new classical music.
    ANd of course Cabrillo isn’t calling itself a Festival of Men’s music, I’m saying that’s what it is acting like by excluding women composers. So many people in the classical world want to think “we’re beyond gender now,” but when you don’t have any women creating the pieces that are played, we still have a long ways to go. Of course it’s great that Marin Alsop is conducting, that Weilerstein is a soloist, so we can get a lot of involvement of women, but not in the role of composer.