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Faith McDowell’s Honors Capstone Project Includes Concert of Her Original Works

Faith McDowell wrote her first piano composition in the third grade and penned a musical in middle school.

Through her Honors Capstone Project, the Seton Hill University Music Education major highlighted the importance of showcasing the work of women composers on both professional and educational stages.

For her project, McDowell researched the lack of women composers overall – and the large gap that exists when it comes to their works being programmed at concerts.

She presented her research findings – and 10 of her own compositions – at “Women Write Music Too!: Composition Premiere Concert” in April at the Seton Hill University Performing Arts Center’s Reichgut Concert Hall.

“It was right up my alley to discuss the underrepresentation of women in music,” said McDowell, who will graduate from Seton Hill in December 2022.

During the first half of the concert, McDowell presented her research into women composers and then shared recordings of some of the instrumental works she has composed, performed by local ensembles.

The second half of the concert featured live performances of McDowell’s compositions – both instrumental and choral – by Seton Hill students and alumni.

For her research, she surveyed choral and instrumental music directors at middle and high schools in western Pennsylvania and asked for programs from their past three years of concerts. From those programs, she tallied how many works were by male composers and how many works were by female composers.

She found that only about 5.44 percent of works performed at regional high school and middle school concerts between 2018 and 2020 were written by women composers. That’s in line with a global study that found that while 13 percent of published composers are women, only about 5 percent are being actively programmed in concerts.

She’s hoping that her research will make music directors more aware and more willing to program music by women composers. At the same time, she’s hoping her music will inspire other young women to be composers.

“For those who are interested in composing – yes, you can do this,” she said. “You can follow your passion. There are people who are fighting for you if you are underrepresented in this field.”