My daughter and I watched a documentary about film composers and were stunned by how few women were in it.

Like, seriously stunned.

Of the many composers featured in the film "Score," only two were women. But I suppose we shouldn't have been surprised. If I were to list famous film scorers, I'd offer up names like John Williams, James Horner, Hans Zimmer, and Howard Shore. I don't even know the name of a female film composer off the top of my head.


John Williams received a lifetime achievement award for his film composition work in 2016. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

That's not good news for my daughter, who wants to be a film composer. She'll be studying music composition at university this fall, and while I have no doubt she'll rock it, it's disheartening to find out how male-dominated her chosen field is.

But perhaps change is on the horizon.

Marvel just made superhero movie history by hiring a female film composer.

As a bright spot in the darkness, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought on Pinar Toprak to score the much-anticipated "Captain Marvel" film. Toprak, who helped score the popular video game "Fortnite," will be the first female film scorer in a comic superhero movie.

To give you a sense of why this is significant, take a look at this list of DC superhero films and this list of Marvel superhero films. Just scroll through to see the sheer number of films — presumably all of which have included a score of some sort.

It's not that women don't ever score movies. They do — but only 3% of the top 250 films of 2017 included female composers (up from 1-2% a few years before). The industry has long been dominated by men and has been slow to change.

It's not just film scores. The whole music composition world is heavily skewed toward male composers.

In some ways, it's understandable. The most well-known classical music pieces come from the likes of Mozart, Bach, Schubert, Brahms, Vivaldi, and other male composers from generations past. The problem is that as the landscape has changed for women in music, the music that gets played and celebrated hasn't.

The statistics from Drama Musica and the Donne — Women in Music project show that among 1,445 classical concerts performed around the world in a year, only 76 included at least one piece by a woman. That means 95% of classical concerts only include male composers.

Image via Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, used with permission.

The numbers are not just due to the predominance of famous dead men in the classical music repertoire. In a survey of the 22 largest American orchestras during the 2014-15 symphony season, women only accounted for 14.3% of living composers whose work was performed.

"These numbers are both abysmal and embarrassing, particularly in this day and age," said Kristin Kuster, composer and associate professor of composition at the University of Michigan.

When an industry has been male-dominated for centuries, it takes a concerted, purposeful effort to level the field.

And there are some in the music world — like Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Music director/conductor Ulysses James — leading the way.

After reading an article about the gender disparities for composers in orchestra performances, James responded with this:

"Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association Board members and I saw this article and decided to do something about it. Fourteen of the sixteen works we will be performing in the 2018-19 season will be composed by women. I'll also commit to programming 50% of the following season and beyond to women composers. Thank you for the article."

That's how it's done. It takes a conscious effort to turn the tide, and even just one decision like James' can break a pattern.

Thank you James and others making the effort and giving my daughter hope for a successful career doing what she loves. Let's hope more will follow your lead.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

When schools closed early in the spring, the entire country was thrown for a loop. Parents had to figure out what to do with their kids. Teachers had to figure out how to teach students at home. Kids had to figure out how to navigate a totally new routine that was being created and altered in real time.

For many families, it was a big honking mess—one that many really don't want to repeat in the fall.

But at the same time, the U.S. hasn't gotten a handle on the coronavirus pandemic. As states have begun reopening—several of them too early, according to public health officials—COVID-19 cases have risen to the point where we now have more cases per day than we did during the height of the outbreak in the spring. And yet President Trump is making a huge push to get schools to reopen fully in the fall, even threatening to possibly remove funding if they don't.

It's worth pointing out that Denmark and Norway had 10 and 11 new cases yesterday. Sweden and Germany had around 300 each. The U.S. had 55,000. (And no, that's not because we're testing thousands of times more people than those countries are.)

The president of the country's largest teacher's union had something to say about Trump's push to reopen schools. Lily Eskelsen Garcia says that schools do need to reopen, but they need to be able to reopen safely—with measures that will help keep both students and teachers from spreading the virus and making the pandemic worse. (Trump has also criticized the CDCs "very tough & expensive guidelines" for reopening schools.)

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