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Q&A with Missy Mazzoli & Ellen Reid

The acclaimed composers Missy Mazzoli and Ellen Reid teamed up with Kaufman Music Center's Face the Music to launch Luna Composition Lab, a 2-year-old mentorship program that addresses the gender gap in classical music and aims to inspire girls and young women to compose.

Mazzoli & Reid were named as Top Innovators of 2016 by Musical America! Click here for details.

Below, they explain how a program like Luna Lab can help level the playing field by inspiring young women to explore their compositional voices at a young age.

Why did you start the Luna Lab program with Face the Music?
Face the Music is one of the foremost programs for high school-aged musicians in the country, and one of the only afterschool programs to focus on contemporary music. It seemed to be a natural fit to work with them to draw awareness to the persistent gender gap in music, and to support very young women who are just beginning their compositional careers.

Why is it important to have a mentorship program that focuses on female composers?
Female composers continue to make up the small minority of professional composers who are consistently performed, recorded and celebrated. We believe this is a problem that begins early in one’s career: Young women in their teens have few female composer role models, and are, in both direct and subtle ways, discouraged from entering the field. We believe that by connecting young women with established female professionals we can provide positive role models, foster confidence, and give these young women an outlet for unique self-expression.

Are there other programs like this?
There are some programs, concerts and contests that are limited to female composers, but many are directed at women who are already established in the field. While helpful, these programs really act as a Band-Aid on the problem rather than something that will correct it at its source. Very few programs are aimed at young women at the beginning of their career.

Do you feel like your experience as a woman composer has been different than that of your male peers’?
Absolutely  -  I feel that a woman’s experience in any field is, in big or small ways, different from that of her male peers. The world treats women very differently, and they are often socialized in very different ways. There’s also a lot of good old fashioned sexism that is still, unfortunately, alive and well in the music world. I feel that men are more often given opportunities based on potential, whereas women are given opportunities based on their past achievements. So a young woman has to prove herself again and again before getting a big opportunity. If the ratio was a little more equal, this double standard would be harder to perpetuate.

What are your goals for Luna Lab?
Our primary goal is to give young women the confidence to claim a place in this field. We do this by providing them with a lifelong mentor, a great recording of their work, weekly lessons, and a network of peers and role models they can look to for guidance as they launch their careers. Women generally enter the composition field later than men because they're not encouraged to explore their compositional voice. We aim to raise awareness that being a composer can be a viable career for a woman, and to encourage the interested young composers to explore their creativity. While there is no direct path toward having an artistic career, we hope to make the journey toward being a working artist – while still challenging - less daunting.

What are the most important things that you have to offer the young women you’ll be mentoring?
The most important gift we can give these young women is a role model. I believe that it’s important to be able to picture yourself in a field before you can confidently make your way in that direction. There’s a dearth of women in positions of power and influence in this field, so it’s often hard for young women to imagine a successful path forward. When you have even one powerful mentor in your life, who looks like you and has a similar past, the world opens up.

Click here to learn more about LUNA LAB.