MAESTRA is a community of female composers and music directors working in the theater industry in New York City and beyond. Founded in 2017 by Georgia Stitt, we gather monthly at The New York SongSpace, hosted by Kara Unterberg.
MAESTRA ORIGIN STORY
On New Year’s Eve as 2016 turned into 2017, I premiered an original choral piece at The Cathedral of St. John The Divine in New York City. After the concert, I was greeted by a young female composer who told me she couldn’t think of any other female composer modeling the career she was trying to build. A few days later, I got an email from another young female composer who told me that her grad school musical theater curriculum didn’t include any female writers. When she confronted the administration, they asked her to suggest which composers she would like added to the syllabus. She didn’t know who to recommend, so she reached out to me.
I got those two women together for lunch and we talked about this strange business of being a female theater composer. More than anything, I came to realize that the women felt lonely, without access to their own community and without the visibility and support that allows a composer to step forward in her career. I made a list of all of the female composers I know in New York who were actively writing musicals and operas, and I came up with about forty names. I suggested to Kara Unterberg at The New York SongSpace that I wanted to throw a party for all of these composers, and she offered to host and cater it. That party happened in February 2017, and then I became obsessed with looking for the women composers who were graduating from the musical theater writing programs, attending the writers retreats, getting the commissions and winning the industry awards. The list grew, and we had another party in March and another in April. After three months of parties I started structuring the gatherings to include a guest speaker– always a woman prominent in her field, always speaking on a topic that would hold the interest of a room full of composers. We named ourselves MAESTRA because any time I type “maestra” into my computer, it auto-corrects to “maestro.”
Month after month our group has grown, and we currently have 116 women on the roster, all composers who write for the theater. Our extended online community has grown to include over 450 women music directors, orchestrators, arrangers, music assistants, pianists, and conductors. We are forging new relationships with the women lyricists, bookwriters, directors and producers in our industry, and we are building a database at MaestraMusic.org where you will be able to find them and they will be able to find each other. Other initiatives include a mentoring relationship with The New York Youth Symphony, a partnership with The Canales Project/Hear Her Song that yields commissions for our members, a music directors development program, technical skills workshops, and ongoing networking events.
MAESTRA exists to give support, visibility, and community to the women who make the music in the musical theater industry. It’s time for them to be heard.
Guest Speakers have included Emily Grishman, music copyist; Erin McKeown, Pro-Tools and Logic; Lynne Shankel, orchestration; Lia Vollack, sound designer, film music executive, Broadway producer; Betsy Capes Caplan, “Creative Productivity in an Age of Distractions”; Jeanine Tesori, composer; Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Broadway music supervisor; Kirsten Childs, composer/lyricist/bookwriter; AnnMarie Milazzo, vocal designer; Kathleen Marsh, Founder/CEO of MusicNotes.com; Stacey Mindich; Broadway Producer; Lynn Ahrens, lyricist; and Marsha Norman and Julia Jordan of The Lillys, discussing gender parity in the theater.
For more information, please contact:
Georgia Stitt, Founding Director of MAESTRA
Kara Unterberg, The New York SongSpace