Leading international music college moves to abolish all-male composer concerts

Harriet Harman launches ‘Venus Blazing’, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance’s campaign to celebrate music by ‘missing’ women composers


  • Trinity Laban pledges that music by women – past and present and across many genres – will make up more than half of its concert programmes in 2018/19 academic year
  • Trinity Laban will also create an online database of female composers and expand its library to ensure students have access to the wealth of musical scores by women that music history has overlooked

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance today announces Venus Blazing, an unprecedented commitment to the music of women composers throughout the next academic year, virtually abolishing concerts which feature only music by men.

Drawing on centuries of music past and present, Trinity Laban will ensure that at least half of the music it chooses for the multitude of varied public performances it mounts on its landmark Greenwich campus and in venues across London in 2018/19 will be by women composers. This encompasses the 60+ concerts and opera performances given each year by the conservatoire’s 12 large-scale student performing groups in all the musical genres for which Trinity Laban is known, including classical music, opera, and jazz. There will be a particular focus on 20th and 21st century British composers, including Trinity Laban students, alumni and staff.

Harriet Harman MP, Chair of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, launched Venus Blazing to coincide with a lunchtime concert by Trinity Laban’s Chamber Choir celebrating the 90th birthday of British composer Thea Musgrave, in Greenwich today [1pm, 8 March], also marking International Women’s Day.

Harriet Harman, Chair of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, says:

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance is strongly committed to diversity in all elements and it has a mission to constantly challenge the status quo. Venus Blazing is a great example of just how it can do this. It will encourage and inspire its students – many of whom will go on to shape the future of the performing arts to engage with the historic issue of gender imbalance in music by women, and ensure that it does not continue into the next generation. I welcome this bold initiative to raise awareness of the disparity that has long existed in music and shine a light on music that has so frequently been overlooked. I am also greatly looking forward to hearing some of the musical treasures by women I might not otherwise have had the chance to hear.”

Among the performance highlights of Venus Blazing is a new production of Thea Musgrave’s opera A Christmas Carol (December 2018), symphonies by Louise Farrenc and Grace Williams performed by the Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra, an exploration of the music of Trinity Laban alumna Avril Coleridge-Taylor and much more to be announced in due course. This will include music by current Trinity Laban composition students and staff, including Soosan Lolavar, Laura Jurd and Deirdre Gribbin – whose Violin Concerto Venus Blazing has given the name to this celebration.

Alongside these performances Trinity Laban will make available an online database of works by female composers, and will expand its library resources, including scores, books and recordings. This will encourage and inspire students to discover works that they might not previously have been able to access, and will and ensure that Trinity Laban, as a modern conservatoire with a key role to play in shaping the next generation of music makers, addresses the historical gender imbalance in music so that it does not continue.

Venus Blazing is being spearheaded by two key members of Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music: Dr Sophie Fuller, Programme Leader of Trinity Laban’s Masters programmes and acclaimed author of The Pandora Guide to Women Composers: Britain and the United States, alongside conductor and Head of Orchestra Studies, Jonathan Tilbrook, Head of Orchestral Studies.

Dr Sophie Fuller, said:

It is widely recognised that music created by women – whatever the genre – is heard much less often than music created by men. In past centuries, it was difficult for women to find a meaningful musical education or get equal access to performance opportunities, but there have always been those who leapt over any obstacles placed in their way. We at Trinity Laban want our students and their audiences to hear their often powerful work. It is our duty to celebrate women’s music, not just for one year, but to provide the structures, support and encouragement to ensure that this is a lasting legacy for all future musicians and music lovers.”


@TrinityLaban #VenusBlazing

(source: press release)


  1. Here we go again. The only answer is positive discrimination. Well, I have news for all who espouse this answer. Discrimination is unacceptable in any form to any rational person. Sadly, human beings are not always rational and that applies to those who choose the composers and or the music. The test should always be quality, not gender, not age, not minority group, not anything, but quality. Only the best should do regardless of all else. Question. Why are red-headed, corrie-fisted Scotsmen not adequately represented? Get real. Tackle discrimination in the selection process. Get rid of those who demonstrate entrenched, archaic views and impose them on others.

      • Oh dear me! Positive discrimination lies, in this case, in stating beforehand that a specific proportion of the programme will be awarded to female composers, without mentioning any other criteria.

        I have absolutely no problem with making the general public aware, or perhaps, more aware of the music composed by women. That such music is not given the same exposure as that of male composers is not in dispute. The unanswered question is why. Is it all due to men preventing women having their rightful place in the music world, or is it because fewer women take up composition?

        Let me emphasise that I am not against any organisation, large or small, that wishes to expand its audiences’ awareness of good music, whoever composed it. But please, avoid the current band wagon of women are hard done by. Everyone knows that women like to have the last word and hate to be excluded from anything. That does not make them bad people. Its just the way it is.

        Good luck with your concert. The final test will be ticket sales.

      • I appreciate your comments but I do think that if anyone looks at the history of females in general, which includes composers…that the reality is that they never took up composition, as you mentioned but perhaps that’s because they were never given that opportunity.

        I think it’s rather unfair that you say women like to have the last word. Be my guest and have the last one on this thread if you so wish! I find that somewhat insulting.

        I respectfully recommend that you read some literature on the subject such as Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘the second sex’ and reconsider your comments in the light of overwhelming historical fact.

        However, I appreciate your comments as regards quality over simply filling a required quota. These measures if handled in the right way are not intended to detract from the quality that already exists from male composers but about encouraging women to step up to the podium, as it were. Talent is not gender specific.

        My comments are not intended to antagonise and I hope you will not take them in that vein.

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