With Howard Herring, President and CEO at New World Symphony
Photo by Gregory Reed
Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves with Stephane Deneve, Artistic Director of the New World Symphony
Pianist Gabriela Montero
Molly Turner, Conducting Fellow at the New World Symphony
Photo by Gregory Reed

An evening of classical music exclusively by, for, and about women was the passionate heart of the New World Symphony’s star-studded 36th anniversary gala, held April 6, 2024, in Miami Beach, FL.

“Balancing the Score” was the theme of the New World Symphony’s gala this year, which celebrated centuries of contributions by women to classical music as composers, performers, and conductors.

Although women have been making music throughout history, societal norms prevented most women from performing professionally or outside the home for centuries. As recently as the 1960s, it was almost impossible to find a woman publicly composing or conducting classical music—or even playing in a major symphony orchestra.

Although gender imbalances continue, that trend is finally changing.

“’Balancing the Score’ is not just a theme but a call to action,” said Ann M. Drake, member of the NWS Board of Trustees and Chair of the 2024 Gala. “It reminds us that it’s time to acknowledge and encourage the very significant gifts women give us as composers and conductors and performers of classical music. It’s a mission that touches my heart greatly, because helping women advance and succeed has been a lifelong passion of mine.”

The New World Symphony is the most-recognized post-graduate school of music in the world. Founded in 1987 by Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor and Distinguished Professor of Music at the San Francisco Conservatory, the New World Symphony today boasts more than 1,200 alums who are performing and leading orchestras and ensembles in over 30 countries around the globe.

The star-studded program on April 6 included several compositions written by women, starting with a song by 11th-century nun St. Hildegard von Bingen and performed by the NWS BLUE Choir, a group that combines leadership and entrepreneurship with musical activism. Other original compositions by women included “Starburst’ by Jessie Montgomery and the third movement from Symphony No. 3 by Florence Price. Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves sang two spirituals—“Poor Me” and “Hold On”—arranged by Margaret Bonds, one of the first Black composers, pianists, and arrangers in the U.S. Internationally renowned pianist Gabriela Montero performed the second movement from her Piano Concerto No. 1 (“Latin Concerto”). To conclude, NWS Conducting Fellow Molly Turner led the NWS orchestra in performing “Peachtree Street,” written by Pulitzer Prize and Grammy award-winning composer Jennifer Higdon as part of her 2002 orchestral piece City Scape.

Funds raised through the gala will be used to support its programs, which include not only preparing graduates for leadership roles in orchestras and ensembles, but offering musical and educational experiences to families, students, teachers, and adults of all ages in the South Florida community.