Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2008

Capstone Advisor

Amanda Eubanks Winkler

Honors Reader

John C. Coggiola

Capstone Major

Music Education

Capstone College

Visual and Performing Arts

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

Music | Music Education


My Capstone Project, entitled “Tradition and Innovation: The Lives and Music of Women Composers,” is a combination of a creative project and written thesis that explores the struggles that women faced as members of society and composers throughout history. The written portion details the expectations set for women by society and how these expectations had a role in their personal lives and their music. I explore stereotypes and societal values that women lived regularly, including the expectation of women to never perform for a public audience, to obey their fathers and husbands and therefore only receive training with their permission, to raise families, and to only compose in certain genres and for certain instruments. Many of these expectations are deep-rooted in beliefs that women should be passive, silent, and private, and caused great difficulty for aspiring female composers in several different centuries from the 1600s through today. I also create several case studies on women composers, including Amy Beach, Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Rebecca Clarke, Ethel Smyth, Elisabeth Claude-Jacquet de la Guerre, Libby Larsen, Lili Boulanger, and Cécile Chaminade, in order to determine whether or not they were specifically affected by societal norms, and how they dealt with pressures from expectations.

The creative component to my project took place on March 1st, 2008, and was a concert to display the compositions of the composers that I examined in the written portion of my thesis. The goal in creating the concert was to inform an audience of my research and give them a different perspective with which to view the way that we have currently formed our musical canon. I hope that my concert showed my audience the quality of music that women have always been capable of writing, and yet they are still unfortunately not as well-represented as men. I used program notes and a brief lecture to provide my audience with information about the struggles that women faced in different time periods, the types of music they wrote, and whether or not it had a correlation to expectations made for them by society, and how women dealt with their status in their music and their personal lives. The concert included student performers, professors, and guest artists the New York State Baroque.

In combining a concert and a written thesis, I hope to bring readers and audience members to the conclusion that I have drawn from researching the world that these women lived in and how it affected their careers and their music. All of the women that I studied were undoubtedly affected in some way by societal expectations. Some of them stayed well within the boundaries set for them during their time, and some broke many of the expectations and became known as leaders for their gender, although even the leaders still were unable to completely escape the challenges of being a female in a patriarchal society. I argue, however, that it is precisely the combination of tradition and innovation portrayed by each of the women that adds depth to their stories and adds beauty and depth to their music.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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