Frustrated with the lack of women represented in music, Leanne sought out to create Femmelody, a chamber music group. Back again at NWS, Leanne will be hosting Femmelody Open Mic Night & Talkback from 7:30–9pm on March 23rd. Reserve your spot for $10 and stop by for a fun night filled with music, conversation, and cocktails. Below find out about Leanne’s goals and mission for Femmelody!
1. Age and hometown?
I am 22 and I grew up in Marlton, NJ, a suburban town right outside of Philadelphia.
2. How long have you been living in your current city?
This is my fourth year in NYC.
I am currently finishing up school at NYU, and I work for and after school music program called Harmony Program.
2. How and why did you begin Femmelody?
The concept of Femmelody started out of a shared concern I had with my peers in music school about the lack of music written by women we were studying and hearing performed. There is such a clear underrepresentation of women composers for a variety of historical and political reasons. I experienced one of the clearest depictions of this gender disparity earlier this year when I was presenting about Femmelody to an undergraduate class of piano performance majors. At the start the presentation, I asked them to brainstorm as many composers they could think of in under a minute. Not one student had a woman’s name on their list.
On a more personal musical philosophical level, I was really interested in making classical music more accessible, more enjoyable, and more relatable to modern-day audiences. The classical music world has so much to offer, but it tends to get stuck in its traditions that often don’t really make sense in today’s context. Femmleody came out of a combined desire to discover, perform, and share the historically overlooked works of women and give classical music a new functional space in our modern society came Femmelody.
3. What kind of effects have you seen in your community through your work?
After some of our concerts, I’ve had some audience members say things like, “Wow, I actually enjoyed that so much!” implying that they normally wouldn’t enjoy a classical music concert as much. I’ve also watched performers form beautiful bonds with one another and become incredibly excited about the music they’re performing and about performing more works by women. At our first Open Mic Night and Talk Back, there was an incredible sense of community amongst the attendees across the gender spectrum, and it really seemed like setting the space for dialogue surrounding gender inequity in the context of music by women struck a chord with the attendees. I’m so grateful our audiences have been so open and receptive to what we are doing.
4. How can other people get involved?
Anyone who would like to learn more about us or get involved should email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or like/message us on Facebook (Femmelody Chamber Music Collective). No need to be a musician to reach out! Right now, we are really looking for marketing/social media help, but any sort of help is appreciated!
5. Where do you see the progress in gender equity?
Every day there is progress, and of course everyday there are setbacks, too. This is also a very different conversation depending on whether we are speaking locally, nationally, or globally, and I’m not sure I’m qualified to say anything too definitive about the overarching progress in gender equality. From what I can say of my experiences and my communities, I think we’re going in the right direction. I think we all have a long way to go, especially in addressing our own internalized, normalized thought processes. I’m really proud to be part of a generation of woman that is refusing to stand for the things women have historically been silenced about. And I’m glad to be making a contribution to the cause through the means of communicating I know best.
6. Why do you think it’s important to have a space for women and gender non conforming individuals?
Like other historically marginalized populations, women and gender non conforming individuals have seen a troublesome, difficult past. The experiences and feelings of those who have come before us are not only a part of our collective conscience today, but many of the issues our predecessors dealt with are still issues today. We need healing, uplifting, safe, and creative spaces to productively react, respond, discuss, and plan.
7. How important is music as a method of activism for gender equity?
Music is as important as any other means of communication. It is part of our daily intake, it is incredibly personal, and it says big things often without words. For me, classical music is simply the means of expression I personally know best, because it is what I am trained in and it is part of my daily experience. It of course may not be the clearest or most sensical method for everyone else, but I think we all have a responsibility to speak out against inequalities through whatever medium makes sense in each of our lives.
8. Is there an instance you had an issue working with men in your music classes/ performances/ how did you work it out?
I really try to stress that Femmelody comes from a place of celebration and empowerment for women and other underrepresented communities, not bashing men in music. This is especially the case because I’ve been very fortunate to work with incredibly respectful, skilled men musicians in my life. Even though my fellow men musicians have been nothing but great, I found when I was preparing for my first flute recital as an adult I noticed I rehearsed differently with men vs. with women. With women musicians I had no problem speaking up and sharing my artistic opinions, but with men musicians, I noticed my tendency to bite my tongue, assume blame, and go along with things. Starting Femmelody has been a huge help to me in busting that gender-determined tendency of mine.
9. Why did you choose to make Femmelody a chamber music group versus an orchestra or band?
Chamber music, which is music written for small ensembles typically with fewer than 10 musicians, offers an incredible space for creative collaboration and personal connection. The rehearsal process for chamber music is basically an artistic dialogue, and in my opinion, it offers a model that inherently involves empowered women empowering other women when you are dealing with groups of skilled, innovative, open women musicians (which I’m lucky to say, I am). Also, women weren’t composing very much until classical music was becoming much less standardized in terms of instrumentation and “rules.” Focusing on chamber music allows us access to a wider variety of music, instrument groupings, and programming potential.
10. Where do you see Femmelody in the future?
In the future, I would love to further develop and expand our concert and Open Mic Nights series. I would also love to partner with schools/educational programs to include an educational component because at the core of Femmelody has always been the idea that even if you do not see people like you represented in your chosen professional field, you have the power to shape the future of them. This is especially important for young women and young members of minority populations to understand. There are currently a wide array of ideas for Femmelody’s future brewing, but in my mind, as long as we stay true to our mission and maintain a balance of performing, facilitating conversation, and educating, I will be incredibly proud and pleased.