“Music by Women Composers” has deep roots

Our choir director and organist, Naomi Shiga, talks about how her experiences in music have shaped her choices of composers and performers for the upcoming concert:
Happy Easter! Spring is here, a time of new beginnings. In keeping up with events in the news and culture at large, this spring it seems that many are especially hungry for newness of thought and action. I’ve been especially moved by those in the #MeToo movement, and the March for Our Lives protests held widely last month. Perhaps some of you in our chapter were involved. For me it was wonderful to see children who don’t even have the right to vote yet engaged, raising their voices in hope to protect the lives of children in our time. I feel like that we can see a better future through their actions. 
All of this seems far afield from music. But it is not. When I was 19, I moved to Boston where I spent my first 7 years of life in the United States. Even though I am foreign (my English was much worse then now) and female, the community I found in Boston was made up of people with creative mindsartists, writers, musicians, philosophers—and in my time amongst them I never experienced any kind of segregation. Of course, maybe I was too young and naive to notice anything yet, but I was truly impressed with peoples aim in communicating through art and music removed from barriers, preconceptions, and prejudice. When I played music, there was an air that that was all that was needed to communicate.
As a student I had a number of strong female instructors who served as wonderful role models. Through their teaching I learned of the the predominance of the patriarchy in the history of Western music. It is unavoidable. But I was fortunate to be studying at a time when scholarship was reexamining the role of women in music. Today we have a much better picture of the contributions of women in the past, and a more open environment for female performers and composers. A simple Wikipedia search on “women in music” is revealing. Yet the playing field is still not entirely even. As I meet female colleagues in conversation, both in person and through social media, issues of inequality in hiring and salaries, and unfair treatment of pregnant women and mothers of young children remain a challenge. Likewise, revelations of sexual abuse of both men and women in the world of classical music show that we are not immune from trends in the culture at large. In the years since my time as a student in Boston, I too have experienced bias, prejudice, and inequality in my life as a musician, and so I feel strongly that it is important for each of us to raise our voices, to demand a higher ethical standard. Ultimately music is about communication, and when barriers are removed and we can truly hear one another honestly, great art can flourish.
On April 29 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, I am playing a concert with two fabulous female musicians, Houston Symphony cellist, Shino Hayashi and Noel Burns, principal oboist with our Tacoma Symphony. Together we will present a program of music composed by female composers. We were students at one point, but now we are all mother-musicians and we decided that we would like to do this at this moment. Just like today’s youth marching with the wonderful message that we should protect them and future generations, we would like to do something for women now and for women in the future. In preparing this concert, each of us is finding great depth and beauty in the repertoire and we are eager to learn more of these and other women composers. It is a repertoire we are discovering together and are looking forward to sharing. Just last week I played a number of pieces for church services at St. Andrew’s, and many people commented how much they enjoyed the music. I hope you can make it, and even bring a friend or two to our concert.
Happy Easter everyone! Enjoy the beauty of Tacoma in bloom. Spring is all around!