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Women Write Music Too! Concert Featuring Original Works of Seton Hill Student Faith McDowell to be Held Saturday, April 30

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

Now, the Seton Hill University music education major wants to highlight the importance of showcasing the work of women composers on both professional and educational stages. 

As part of her Senior Honors Capstone Project, McDowell, a Ligonier resident and graduate of Ligonier Valley High School, has been researching the lack of women composers overall – and the large gap that exists when it comes to their works being programmed at concerts. 

She will present her research findings – and 10 of her own compositions – at “Women Write Music Too!: Composition Premiere Concert” on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 7 p.m. in the Seton Hill University Performing Arts Center’s Reichgut Concert Hall located at 100 Harrison Avenue, Greensburg. 

The event is free and open to the public. Attendees must wear a mask in accordance with Seton Hill’s COVID-19 policy for events with more than 50 participants. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and a reception will follow after the concert.

McDowell, who will graduate from Seton Hill in December 2022, planned the concert as part of the community outreach portion of her Honors Capstone Project. 

“It was right up my alley to discuss the underrepresentation of women in music,” said McDowell, who has been working on the project since her freshman year. 

Dr. Mark A. Boyle, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Seton Hill served as one of McDowell’s advisors on the project. "It's been a joy to work with Faith during her time on the Hill,” Boyle said. “I am so very proud of her work and her desire to inspire others, particularly underrepresented populations, to realize that composition is available to them."

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

The second half of the concert will feature live performances of McDowell’s compositions – both instrumental and choral – performed 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 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. 

“There’s a big difference in how many are composing and how many are being programmed,” she said. “An interesting thing I found is two times as many are being programmed for choral concerts rather than instrumental.”

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 do it and follow your passion. There are people who are fighting for you if you are underrepresented in this field.”