RTRL.58: Orchestral Performances at the Midwest Clinic (Zabanal, 2021)


Zabanal, J. R. A. (2021). An examination of orchestras and repertoire performed at the Midwest Clinic from 1990 through 2019. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 39(3), 29-38.

What did the researcher want to know?

What types of ensembles, repertoire, and composers/arrangers have been represented at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in the previous 30 years?

What did the researcher do?

Zabanal accessed programs from the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic from 1990 through 2019 and conducted a content analysis. To analyze the ensembles invited to perform, he recorded the performance year, school/organization name, ensemble name, and geographic origin (state/country) as well as level (elementary, middle school, high school, multilevel, collegiate, or professional). To analyze the repertoire performed, Zabanal recorded the title of each piece along with the composer and/or arranger and instrumentation (i.e., full orchestra or string orchestra). He also coded each composer/arranger according to their assumed gender (male/female).

What did the researcher find?

Of the 261 total orchestras that performed at the Midwest Clinic from 1990 through 2019, 58% were string orchestras and 39% were full orchestras. High school ensembles were most common, making up 63% of orchestra performances. The state with the most representation in orchestra performances was Texas (n = 73), followed by Georgia (n = 25), Illinois (n = 23), Nevada (n = 14), Michigan (n = 12), and Missouri (n = 11).

Of the 624 full orchestra pieces performed that listed at least one composer, only 24 (3.69%) were composed by women. Of the 305 individual composers whose full orchestra pieces were performed, only 17 (5.57%) were female. Of the 1,524 string orchestra pieces performed that listed at least one composer, 140 (9.19%) were composed by women. Of the 574 individual composers whose string orchestra pieces were performed, 46 (8.01%) were female. Similarly, women accounted for 6.48% of arrangers of full orchestra pieces performed and 11.02% of arrangers of string orchestra pieces.

Zabanal also reported statistics pertaining to the most performed composers/arrangers and most performed pieces.

What does this mean for my classroom?

Female composers are still underrepresented in the field of orchestral music and string music education. This imbalance was more pronounced among full orchestra performances at the Midwest Clinic, which more often featured repertoire by male composers “who were European and deceased” (p. 34). Orchestra teachers should seek out more works composed/arranged by women and provide more representation of female composers in their classrooms. 

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