International Women’s Day is as usual bringing attention to people who are perpetually deserving of more. This particular lineup I think is especially vital and worth tuning in today, for the breadth it covers of impact worldwide. Meet Germaine Franco, Tania León, and Melinda Newman.
The panel goes live later today with ASCAP. (Their concert music program was always a great presence in the New York community.)
(LIve today, but then available on demand.)
I’m heavily biased as I studied with Tania León as my composition teacher at CUNY Graduate Center. We pretend to be neutral, but then we simply know some people better than others, and I think we even wind up connecting to people for a reason. I was gratified to see her win the Pulitzer Prize this year, as I think the first time you hear her music, you’re aware that this is one of the major compositional voices of our time.
Of course, like all great composition lessons, I feel in retrospect like what I got out of those meetings was only tangentially music related and came down to some sort of effort by me fumbling through what it means to be human in ways I wouldn’t really understand until later. I expect anyone who’s had Tania as a conductor or teacher has had a similar experience. That means I’ll be very interested in what she has to say today and grateful other people get to hear her voice.
I like that her bio says she’s “highly regarded.” She lights rooms on fire. We need more of that.
Quick bio though – she has been not only hyperactive-prolific as conductor and composer, but a major organizer of composers and musicians, founding member of Dance Theatre of Harlem, celebrated women, queer, Black, and Latino artists, and everyone should take in all of Scourge of Hyacinths which she composed to a play by Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka.
The other folks they’ve assembled are vital, too.
Amy Wadge is at the opposite end of the spectrum – and I’m definitely more Scourge of Hyacinths than I am Ed Sheeran – but wow, what a career. The Grammy-winning songwriter and artist has credits across the pop world, and that is demanding on every level, from the deceptive task of writing the hit to the whole business around it. That includes penning one of the most-streamed songs of all time. This is worth saying, because it is not necessarily the case that this industry is improving – songwriting has often been male-dominated, even when it’s female artists singing the words. And that limits perspective. (Of course, I defer to whatever she’ll presumably say about that).
And then there’s Germaine Franco, the composer behind Encanto and Coco, alongside exactly the long string of credits that you need to get into projects like that. Having grown up loving folks like Sondheim, here is a new generation and future.
Of course, the experimental side of me is deeply gratified to see Tania’s music alongside Disney.
It’s simple – the only question we should ask ourselves is, what can we do to fight for equality? Tania’s music is able to describe the depth and horror of injustice and corruption – and she’s also able to walk into a room and motivate people to move. If that doesn’t describe the challenges of our time, nothing does.