Nevis Ensemble trumpeter Elisabeth Lusche marks International Women’s Day with this great blog post.
Happy International Women’s Day!
I have always felt conflicted about this holiday – something which I suspect can partially be attributed to the other privileges I enjoy and perhaps also due to the fact that I grew up in the American South which has a very distinct, domestic concept of the ‘ideal woman.’
When I sat down to write this blog this morning, I spent some time poking around the internet for recordings of female performers to offer up as perfect, celebratory examples of successful women in the arts (of which there are many that often deserve way more credit than they receive). As I was doing so, however, I started feeling more and more that by offering up such examples I would be presenting a different ‘ideal woman’ – this one a hyper-successful, powerful stage performer – that wouldn’t necessarily do more justice for all kinds of women with all types of aspirations.
So, before setting off on another YouTube search, I asked myself, ‘What musical example is there of diversity of womanhood?’ Enter: Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman.
Tower’s fanfare is, in fact, six short fanfares that can be played separately or together. Each fanfare is uniquely beautiful and powerful – regardless of whether the melody is rambling and chaotic or lithe and graceful – and they are therefore, in my opinion, a great way to auditorily celebrate International Women’s Day.
Many listeners will be familiar with Aaron Copland’s famous Fanfare for the Common Man. It’s an impactful piece: written to be the antithesis to the fanfares played for kings and instead herald the humble everyman. Joan Tower’s fanfare was written to counter Copland’s counterargument. The first movement opens similarly to the Fanfare for the Common Man, but then quickly elaborates into five further movements with unique personalities. It is an ode to the power and beauty of individuality and diversity. It celebrates the fact that the ‘uncommon woman’ isn’t one particular type of woman – it’s any woman marching to the beat of her own drum.
One of my favorite parts of playing with Nevis is having opportunities to play for children. Watching kids run up to my colleagues after a concert because they heard something in the orchestra that spoke to them or experiencing the sheer joy and surprise that comes with a child’s first notes on an instrument instantly makes any long bus ride or early morning rehearsal worth it by ten-fold. Especially for young women, discovering their voice in music or on a musical instrument can be life-changing.
My favourite recording of any of the fanfare movements is one by the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra because – although it’s not the most perfect recording – it retains the energy of what it felt like to play an instrument for the first time and the excitement and empowerment that comes along with it.
My hope for this International Women’s Day is that we take time to listen to the uncommon women and girls in our lives, to encourage them in all of their uncommonness, and to empower them to speak or sing or play whatever is in their hearts.